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Aiming for greatness

Southridge hoop star JJ Hones is just getting started
by: Jonathan House, TWO-TIME CHAMPION — JJ Hones completed her Skyhawk career with two state titles and Player of the Year awards from the Metro League, Oregon’s Class 4A schools and Gatorade.

The individual honors fell like Oregon rain for Southridge's JJ Hones during her senior basketball season.

First-team All-Metro League and Metro League Player of the Year.

First-team All-State Tournament and First-team All-State.

Class 4A Oregon Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year.

Despite all that, Hones was never about winning awards. She was never about 'Me first.' She was never about scoring averages or assists or steals.

Instead, Hones, 18, was a point guard in the truest sense. While able to score with the state's best, she made her Southridge team run its offense without fail, shared the basketball without question and ended her career, without doubt, as a winner.

That team-first attitude, however, resulted in one more individual honor for Hones - she is the 2005-06 Beaverton Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year. She shares the award with Sunset tennis star Laura Neal who is also profiled here.

Southridge coach Mike Meek said that Hones provided whatever his team needed whenever it needed it.

'Her ability to control the game was amazing, whether it was a slow game or a fast game,' Meek said. 'She did a really good job of keeping things balanced.'

Now, with college basketball at Stanford looming ahead, Hones looked back on her Southridge career, grateful for all her success, grateful for her many talented teammates, and grateful for the solid coaching she got along the way.

'With our team, it was pick your poison for the other teams' defenses,' she said. 'Do you want to stop me or do you want to stop Stacey (Nichols) in the post or Aarika (Hughes) on the wing?'

Indeed, it was Hones and fellow graduated seniors Nichols and Hughes - headed to college basketball with Oregon State and USC respectively - that created the core of Southridge's success the last two seasons, success that included a 56-2 overall record and two consecutive Class 4A state championships. Together, those three Skyhawks won the past three Metro League Player of the Year awards and added all-state and all-tournament honors as well.

'The greatest thing was that every single day at practice, I'd get to go against another D1 guard in Aarika,' Hones said. 'We did our best to push each other and do what was needed every day to get better.'

Indeed, improvement was key to Hones' ascendancy through high school basketball.

'She improved in every aspect of her game, and obviously, as she got older, she took more of a leadership role on our team,' Meek said. 'She could score in so many ways. And she has the nicest jumpshot I've ever seen in a high school player.'

After breaking into the starting lineup late in her freshman season, Hones got progressively better and more confident as her career continued, though not without a few bumps along the way.

In her first varsity experience as a freshman, against Grant at the Southridge tournament, Hones recalled that 'They had a lot of quick girls and I just remember turning the ball over and not being able to do anything.'

As a sophomore, her first complete season as a starter, it wasn't all easy either. Hones suffered through a difficult state tournament - 'I just didn't play well,' she said - fouling out twice as the Skyhawks played their way to a school's best fifth-place finish.

But things began to gel in Hones' junior year, and gel in a big way. The Skyhawks raced through the Metro League unbeaten at 18-0, then battled through three tough state tournament games, taking out Lakeridge, Tualatin and Central Catholic to claim their school's first Class 4A state title in record-breaking fashion at 29-0.

'Junior year was a weird year because everyone was expecting us to play Lakeridge (in the state title game) and then we played them in the first round,' she said. 'So we had a big game the first night, a close game the second game, and then we had the championship.'

And all that just a precursor to Hones' final, climactic go-round at Southridge.

But her senior did not disappoint - not a bit.

Hones and the Skyhawks, with all but one player back from the previous year, were overwhelming favorites to win again in 2005-06, and win they did.

Southridge fashioned another unbeaten Metro League season with Hones leading the way to her first Metro Player of the Year award, then went about the business of creating more lifelong memories at state.

After blowing past Central Catholic in their opener, the Skyhawks saw Ashland start their semifinal contest with an 11-0 lead and hopes of a huge upset. Hones wasn't buying, though - she led her team on a 26-1 run over the next 6 minutes and 2 seconds, hitting 6-of-9 shots (including three three-pointers) en route to 25 first-half points and a game-high total of 31.

The state title game was no less exciting. Vaunted Oregon City opened the championship with a 14-1 lead but like Ashland, couldn't stop Hones and Southridge. The Skyhawks answered with a 24-4 run, took control and kept it the rest of the way to their 56-45 victory.

'It was tough because we had the pressure of being state champs and having to repeat,' Hones said. 'But winning this year was probably more satisfying.'

'Definitely her number one goal was to help her team win,' Meek added.

Mission accomplished.