Center Justin Adams and point guard Jacob Groom led a Sandy hoops revival

by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Justin Adams fights through a double team during Thursdays consolation game against Wilsonville. With less than a minute left in the Pioneers’ season-ending loss to Wilsonville, Sandy coach Jason Maki pulled a few of his seniors from the game. As Jacob Groom and Justin Adams dejectedly trotted toward the bench, they were greeted with a standing ovation from their teammates and the Sandy parents. Maki pulled each in for a hug and slapped them on the back as a way of thanking them for their service to the program.

“Justin and Jacob will go down as two of the best players to ever play at Sandy, for sure,” Maki said.

Groom and Adams took a mediocre team and made it relevant. Last year, Sandy finished 11-14 and nobody expected anything different this season. The senior duo led the Pioneers to 19 wins and a state quarterfinal appearance for the first time in almost four decades, despite what the naysayers thought. In almost every one of those wins, either Adams or Groom was the catalyst, and it was often a dual effort.

For part of the season, Groom secretly battled an arm injury. He played through the pain and turned into one of the most dangerous outside shooters in the Northwest Oregon Conference. Groom was also a premier defender in the conference. For those accomplishments, he was named to the all-league first team.

Groom said his teammates made him the player was.

“We’ve been through so much together,” Groom said. “A lot of us have been playing together since we were eight or nine years old. Knowing it’s over, it’s tough.”

Adams was one of those long-time teammates, and he was the perfect post player to complement Groom’s outside game.

Adams was a powerful presence in the paint at the beginning of the year and he only got better as the season progressed. In the second half of league play, every team double-teamed Adams when he got the ball, and he still managed to score regularly. In Sandy’s two games in Eugene, the Pioneers’ opponents put two guys on Adams even if the ball was nowhere near him.

There was more to Adams’ game than just prolific scoring. He also caused opposing offenses to shy away from going inside. To top it off, Adams established himself as one of the best rebounders in the state. Other coaches recognized that, which is why he was named NWOC player of the year.

For Adams, Groom and the other eight Sandy seniors, the sour taste of defeat is still profound. As time passes, they will be able to look back on their time with fondness.

“My experience playing for this team was great,” Adams said. “I will always remember the good times we had during these four years. I’m sad to see it end, but it’s time to move on.”

As future players come and go, Adams and Groom will stand out as two of the elite. They won’t be immortalized for the stats they put up or the games they won, but for the lasting impact they made.

“I’ve had calls and texts and emails from alumni all over telling me how proud they are of what we’ve done,” Maki said. “I told those guys it stings now, but what they’ve done is quite an accomplishment.”

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