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PREP FOCUS: Quakers serve notice

Franklin boys don't wait to get first basketball win


On one hand, Franklin High boys basketball coach Jeffrey McGee would like to keep this quiet.

"I hope everybody thinks we're the same old Franklin, and they approach it like that," he says.

The Quakers began to ruin that plan, however, on the first night of the prep season.

McGee's team — which was 0-12 in the PIL 5A last season — beat visiting The Dalles-Wahtonka 48-46 Wednesday night.

Normally, opening with a two-point home win over a run-of-the-mill 5A opponent wouldn't be huge cause for celebration.

But Franklin was 1-22 last season — losing by nine at TDW — and went 4-20 in 2011-12, and hasn't done much in boys basketball in a while.

So Wednesday night's curtain-lifting victory may have sent a message that the Quakers aren't pushovers anymore.

"We know what the history is around here, and we're determined to change it," McGee says.

The Quakers — after year-round work on their games and with some athletic players from football, a transfer starting at guard and a 6-9 sophomore center with travel team/club experience — will take some confidence into this season and into Friday night's home game against Gresham.

"I expect us to be very competitive this year," says McGee, who has 15 years of coaching with Inner City Players and in his third full season as head coach at Franklin.

"Last year, we took our lumps, but we knew what we were getting into," McGee says. "We were young. We had some seniors who were good guys but not really basketball players. And we had to change the culture. We wanted great kids who want to do things like community service."

On Wednesday, the Quakers used their mix of new and old, young and not so young, and pulled off a win in a game that wasn't secured until the final second.

Noah Jacobsen, the 5-10 sophomore transfer from Portland Waldorf, led the Quakers in scoring with 17 points, 14 in the second half. "I think he only missed three shots all night," McGee says. "He worked really hard all summer to get ready for this."

Joseph Smoyer, the 6-9 soph, had 8 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.

"He got a chance to play travel ball over the spring and summer," McGee says, "and he played on a 16-and-under team that played up at 17-and-under and played with guys like Kadeem Strickland of Jefferson and Deonte Strickland from Central Catholic. He really learned how to earn his keep.

"He went in as like a ninth guy, and by the end of the season at Las Vegas he was getting heavy minutes and getting college recruiters to come over and see him.

"He's been lifting weights, trying to get stronger. He's more of a face-up 4/3 but is trying to get more comfortable playing with his back to the basket."

Wade Ransom, a returning 6-2 senior forward, and Bryon Dunn-Abe, a 6-5 senior guard, were keys for the Franklin football team that made the 5A playoffs this year.

"I always think success in football trickles over into the next sport," McGee says.RANSOM

Ransom did a lot of the dirty work Wednesday, the coach notes. "He had some huge offensive rebounds to give us second chances," McGee says, "and on defense he cut guys off before they got to the lane."

Other Quaker starters were senior Quinn Nottage, a 6-1 guard who had six points and worked hard on defense, McGee says, and 5-6 senior guard Thomas Cassim, who had six assists.

Off the bench came 6-0 freshman forward Nathan Fields. "He's played travel ball for the last four or five years for Team Concept," McGee says. Fields hit all three of his field-goal attempts against The Dalles-Wahtonka and finished with six points.

McGee says that while the Quakers shot well in their debut, 20 turnovers set them back and "the game was a lot closer than it had to be. Turnovers kept (The Dalles-Wahtonka) in the game. We were trying to play up-tempo, and guys were a little off cue. It was all us not making the right reads or throwing the ball to somebody not looking for it and hitting them in the back — a bunch of silly stuff."

Franklin trailed by three points at the half, then scored 20 in a third quarter that McGee says was "one of the best quarters we've had in a couple of years."

But the Quakers squandered a nine-point lead and were caught by the Eagle-Indians with 2:50 remaining.

"We started to feel ourselves a little after that good quarter, and they made a run," McGee says.

The coach had the Quakers hold the ball for a last shot — but the final seconds turned into an adventure.

Jacobsen got fouled and hit two free throws with six seconds left to give Franklin a 48-46 lead.

Franklin tipped TDW's inbound pass out of bounds. Then the Quakers fouled a 3-point shooter, giving him three chances at the free-throw line. The shooter missed his first foul shot. He missed his second foul shot. After a timeout, he tried to intentionally miss, but he also missed the rim, giving Franklin the ball on the violation.

The Quakers threw a long pass, "but the clock person didn't start the clock, and we got called for traveling," McGee says.

So TDW got another chance in inbound. The Quakers tipped another pass, then intercepted the ball with 0.4 seconds left, and then the game was finally over.

"That was probably the longest six seconds in basketball history," McGee jokes, adding, "it's definitely a game we should have won by double digits."

It was a promising start, though, for a program that last season didn't get a win — its only victory — until Dec. 21, when the Quakers beat visiting Reynolds 44-41.

And McGee says more good things are on the way — including the arrival next year of his son, an eighth-grade ICP player.

"A couple of those guys are slated to come over to Franklin," McGee says.

McGee is a student support specialist at the Southeast Portland PIL 5A school.

"We live in Northeast, in the Jefferson district, but my son is more than welcome to come here," McGee says.