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Prep Watch

It wasn't easy, but the pupil's team beat the teacher's team as Roosevelt capped its dream PIL 5A season with a championship-clinching victory.

Roosevelt boys basketball coach Robert Key spent 14 years as an assistant to Cleveland coach Tom Beatty. On Tuesday, Beatty's Warriors nearly upset the host Roughriders' title hopes.

Using a slowdown offense, Cleveland led 31-26 with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter and trailed 48-46 before Cameron Jackson made six of six free throws in the final 20 seconds for a 54-46 Roosevelt win.

'It was a win-win game for me,' Beatty says. 'Robert did a great job this year. He's a very good head coach. He relates well to the kids. He's a very positive, charismatic person who's fun to be around.'

Beatty coached Key when he was a freshman at Marshall. Don Emry, who was Key's varsity coach at Marshall, came to see Tuesday's showdown.

'Tom and Don put me in a position to coach,' says Key, who has another veteran coach, Jerry Campbell, as his assistant. 'But it's all about the kids. They stayed in the weight room and worked on their game and kept making strides.'

Roosevelt turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter to beat an undermanned Warrior team that had knocked them off 48-46 in the first of three meetings and had control of the tempo with its spread offense.

'I sensed some nerves at the beginning (against Cleveland),' Key says, 'but I told our kids to get in the passing lanes as much as possible and create some turnovers.'

Notes

• The Riders finished 10-2 in PIL 5A, winning their last six games, including two over Jefferson. Roosevelt and Jeff will go to the state playoffs as the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds from their league. Both will be at home March 2, needing one win to reach the eight-team state tournament.

• Winning the league title also was special for Key because he grew up in the Roosevelt district, in the old Columbia Villa, and attended Portsmouth Middle School.

'It's great to see a lot of Roosevelt people come back for our games,' he says. 'I just hope on March 2 we have one of our biggest crowds. These young men feed off a crowd.'

• Jackson, a 6-0 junior who played tight end in football, led all scorers Tuesday with 20 points.

'I think he's going to be the player of the year in PIL 5A,' Beatty says.

• Beatty is the dean of PIL basketball coaches, with 21 seasons at Cleveland. 'I'm going for another five years,' he says.

• Wilson senior Aaron Zelick placed eighth in the 6A state wrestling meet at 215 pounds last week.

- Steve Brandon