Grant digs deep to steal the 6A crown
Team, individual efforts give Generals their first title in 20 years
EUGENE -The congratulatory phone calls and text messages to Grant coach Tony Broadous keep coming and coming. Just the way his players never let up last week at McArthur Court.
The Generals were constantly on the attack, especially with their pressure defense, as they won the Class 6A boys basketball title. They led the tournament in steals and took the title from No. 1 Oregon City with a 63-56 triumph Saturday night.
Appropriately, the game ended with senior guard Michael James, who seems a few inches shorter than his listed 6-1, intercepting a pass, making a solo beeline for the basket and then slamming it home in front of the jubilant Grant crowd.
'I was thinking, 'Should I try a windmill dunk or something?' But I just decided to throw it down,' James says. 'I had to leave an exclamation mark on this victory and show that we earned it.'
That passion is what lifted this General team (22-6) to new heights and enabled Grant to peak in the playoffs.
'Heart,' senior guard Andre Broadous says. 'That's what won it for us. The whole time, we were playing as hard as we could -giving 110 percent.'
Grant had great individual and team efforts: James and reserve senior guard Daniel Collins played through injuries, senior guard Paul McCoy and junior wing Michael Moser performed like all-stars against Oregon City, James made shot after shot, and others played their roles.
The Generals' quick hands and feet, and their willingness to dive for every loose ball, gave them an edge in tournament wins over Tualatin, North Medford and OC.
'They just outplayed us and outworked us,' says Brad Tinsley, the Pioneers' standout guard (and best friend of McCoy) who scored 30 points in his final prep game and then hung around to graciously congratulate the Grant contingent and pose for photos with them.
Grant stayed on campus Saturday night; the players celebrated with their neighborhood friends/rivals from Jefferson, who had just won the 5A title, while the General coaches and parents talked until the wee hours and watched a video of their win over Oregon City.
Terrell Brandon, the NBA All-Star who led Grant to its last state championship in 1988, called with congratulations from Los Angeles. He sent his regrets at not being able to attend; the former University of Oregon star was inducted that night into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor.
'It's real rewarding to hear from former players,' Coach Broadous says. 'Even guys who weren't big-name basketball guys, like Ndamukong Suh (now playing football for Nebraska) and Aaron Dickson (a football player at Portland State), feel a part of this.
'Everybody, young and old alike, can be inspired by what these guys did.'
• Grant went 1-2 against Benson and 2-1 versus Wilson in a hard-earned PIL 6A title. And Jefferson beat the Generals 68-54 in midseason, before Grant got it all together.
As a result, some observers didn't consider the G-men one of the top favorites last weekend, even though they were returning several key players from a team that lost only to eventual champion South Medford in last year's tourney, finishing fourth.
'We had a few losses this year, and everybody jumped off the bandwagon,' McCoy says. 'We came to the playoffs and the tournament and everybody wanted back on. At first, we had a target on our backs, and people came ready to shoot and get us. Then we got off the radar, and people underestimated us.'
• Grant has had a strong year in boys athletics, with five teams finishing among the top eight in state.
In addition to boys basketball, the Generals were second in soccer, third in cross country, reached the final four in football and placed seventh in swimming.
• Boys track and field could contend for a state title, too, although McCoy might have trouble producing all the points he's capable of scoring. He runs relays and does the triple jump and long jump, but he will have to fit four basketball recruiting visits into the short track season, and get some rest.
'I'm a little worn out, a little sore,' says McCoy, also all-state in football. 'The jumps kill my legs; I might not jump.'
• This year's tournament was all about 'N-E-P' -for Northeast Portland.
'N-E-P' has been the frequent chant of fans from Grant and, to some extent, Jefferson. The rival teams, who have been in different classifications the last two years, shared a geographical bond, and more. There were some family ties, including one set of brothers (Daniel Collins' brother, Bentley Collins, was a senior for Jeff).
The teams watched and cheered for each other and expressed a lot of pride in the neighborhood and the Portland Interscholastic League.
'It's all N-E-P,' Grant sophomore guard Kenneth Acker says. 'We're lovin' it.'
In the stands Saturday, James Broadous, grandfather of Grant guard Andre Broadous, watched the opening 5A game while wearing a Jefferson shirt and cap; he graduated from Jeff in 1962. After the Demos' victory, he changed into a Grant shirt and hat.
'This is so special,' he says.
Also celebrating on the court after the two PIL triumphs was U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who lives in the Grant district. His son, Jon, is a volunteer coach/defensive specialist under Tony Broadous. Jon played for the Generals during their great run in the late 1980s, when they were first twice and second twice in a four-year span.
'I've been watching Jeff and Grant all season,' Blumenauer says, 'and to see the kids put it together and reach the potential, culminating with Grant knocking off the No. 1 team … I'm just beside myself.
'To both be No. 1 in the state is a real signal about the quality of the schools. And it means a lot to the kids in the community, it brings out a lot of pride.'
As he spoke, the Grant players were cutting down the net and showing off their new champion medals.
'I'm going to wear this for the rest of my life,' Daniel Collins says.
• Collins missed most of the season with a broken right wrist. He banged it again in the semifinals and wore a splint in the finals.
'It hurt, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from playing,' he says. 'If all I could do was play defense, then that's what I was going to do.'
He wound up scoring perhaps the biggest points of the game. Oregon City had cut a 55-46 deficit to 57-56 when the Pioneers intentionally fouled him with 42 seconds left, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. He drained both shots, forcing the Pioneers to attempt, and miss, a 3-pointer.
'Chauncey Billups says to never think about the free throw, just follow your routine,' Collins says, 'so that's what I did.'
• James played through a pain in his right abdominal area.
'I have no idea what it is,' he says. 'I think it happened in the first game (of the tournament), and it felt worse after my first dunk (of two in the OC game).'
• James and McCoy were voted to the all-tourney second team by the 6A tournament coaches, while Moser made the first team.
The 6-8 Moser had team highs of 20 points, 13 rebounds (seven offensive), four steals and three blocks against the Pioneers. He played all 32 minutes and sank 8 of 17 shots from the field.
'He refused to be denied,' Coach Broadous says. 'He was just a maniac.'
• Grant led the tournament in 3-point shooting (.361) and free-throw percentage (.810) and ranked second in fewest points allowed (50.7) and first in 3-point defense (.167).
James shot .559 in the three games, going 6 of 17 (.353) from long range.
McCoy made 22 of 24 free throws (.917), while Acker was 6 of 6 and James 6 of 7.
The big guns, as usual, were James (16.7 points), Moser (16.0) and McCoy (14.7), with Moser adding 9.3 rebounds and McCoy getting 7.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a tourney-high 3.0 steals
• McCoy says he is looking at possible scholarships from Virginia, Washington State (which has offered), Southern Methodist and Virginia Tech.
James' options currently include the University of Portland, Lewis-Clark State, Lamar and some prep schools. 'He's got the ability to play the point,' Coach Broadous says, 'but he's got a scoring mentality.'
Moser is getting interest from Arizona, WSU, Oregon State, UNLV and Virginia, among others. He was extremely active in the Oregon City game but has been a bit inconsistent.
'He's getting better every day,' Coach Broadous says. 'He's always in the gym, loves the game, has the talent, sometimes moves a little too quickly but makes incredible plays and keeps you on the edge of your seat. He's working at being a small forward at the next level, and we're giving him the freedom and training to do that.'
McCoy calls Moser 'a little unorganized but a great player. He needs to get stronger and a little smarter with the ball, and not jump over the back so much. He loves dunks, tip dunks and all that.'
Can he get bigger and stronger?
'I hate that question,' Moser says, with a smile. 'Anybody who knows me knows I'm an eater. I'm lifting. I'm bigger than I was last year. I'm working on it.'
• Oregon City relied primarily on its starting five, especially Tinsley.
'We wanted to use our (defensive) pressure to make them work, to wear them down,' Tony Broadous says. 'And make Tinsley have to scramble.'
'We had to get on them from the beginning,' Grant senior post Josh Hardin says. 'Get the ball out of Tinsley's hands.'
Oregon City forward Kamal Smith had five turnovers and went 0 for 5 from the field. The Pioneers' other starting forward, Bryce Kinney, also went 0 for 5.
'Our game plan was to shut down the X factor, Kamal,' James says. 'The other two (Tinsley and 6-9 Sammy Schafer, who had 21 points and nine rebounds) were going to get theirs. We tried to shut down everybody else.'
• Grant arguably had an easier tourney road to the finals than Oregon City, which had to beat defending champ South Medford and then nipped Sunset, the eventual third-place finisher, in a 62-58 semifinal.
But Tinsley, who watched several Grant games this season, says the Generals played great in the final. 'That was the best I've seen them play, hitting shots, getting offensive rebounds. … I've played with Paul (McCoy) since fourth or fifth grade. I'm really glad, if it wasn't going to be us, that it was him who got the win.'
• The 1988 Grant state champions beat another PIL team, Wilson, in a 57-56 championship game thriller at Memorial Coliseum. The Generals had finished fourth in the PIL that year, because Brandon missed 12 games with damaged ligaments in his left hand. He returned for the playoffs, then sank the winning free throw with three seconds remaining in the final. Wilson guard Pat Strickland, now the heir apparent to Marshall Haskins as Jefferson coach, nearly hit a 40-footer at the buzzer.
• Grant should be strong next year, too.
Moser, Acker, Kelvin Cain, Lukas Shaw and Michael Fendall form the potential starting lineup. Acker would take over for McCoy at the point. The 5-9 Fendall, a junior who came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer in the Oregon City game, would be the shooting guard. Moser would play small forward. Cain is a big linebacker (6-4) who will be a junior power forward next season. The 6-5 Shaw, who will be a senior, got playing time in the middle this season.
Grant has others on the way up, too, including freshman point guard Anthony Penney, who shows a lot of promise. He's a lefty, just like Acker. 'I like his game,' Acker says. 'He's ranked high in the state and is a good slasher and passer. Leave him open, and he'll hit the jumper, too.'
Another freshman guard, Trevionte Riley, also should be in the mix as he moves up from the junior varsity.