No. 1 Jefferson defeats Roosevelt 97-80, looks to focus on defensive consistency

Sure, top-ranked Jefferson might have handled Roosevelt fairly easily Friday night, but coach Pat Strickland was none too happy after the host Democrats' 97-80 PIL victory. “I didn’t think we played too good,” Strickland said. “Whenever...

No. 1 Jefferson defeats Roosevelt 97-80, looks to focus on defensive consistency

Sure, top-ranked Jefferson might have handled Roosevelt fairly easily Friday night, but coach Pat Strickland was none too happy after the host Democrats' 97-80 PIL victory.

“I didn’t think we played too good,” Strickland said. “Whenever you give up 80 points in high school, it’s totally not a good game.”

It never truly felt like Roosevelt had a chance to win, but the Roughriders stuck around until the final horn. And Strickland was right: Jefferson did not look sharp at many points of the game. Even still, the Democrats' superiority was evident.

Geno West and Marcus Tsohonis -- the “best backcourt in state,” as dubbed by Strickland and nearly everyone familiar with Oregon high school basketball -- totaled 60 points, and Jefferson avenged last year’s home loss to Roosevelt.

West, a senior, had 35 points and Tsohonis, a sophomore, tallied 25 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and one monstrous block.

Speaking of monstrous blocks, Kamaka Hepa had another big game. The junior post, who averages a double-double, racked up 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. In one flurry of action, Hepa blocked a shot, then swatted another one, chased down the loose ball and saved it inbounds before hurling it down the court for an easy layup.

The Democrats improved to 17-1 overall and 11-0 in the Portland Interscholatic League, while the Roughriders fell to 12-8 and 7-5. Roosevelt’s Jaden Dewar and Antonio Beltran had 25 and 14 points, respectively.

Jefferson is very likely to run the table in the PIL. The more pressing question has become: Will this Democrats team win state?

They have the tools. Last year’s team went to the state semifinals, and Jefferson since has added Hepa, whom West accurately describes as “a 6-9 monster.”

Strickland acknowledges that the Democrats are one of the premier teams in the state, but he also pointed out what the team needs to focus on for the remainder of the season. For starters, Jefferson needs to come to play each game.

According to Strickland, the Democrats' two best performances of the season came against two other elite teams, West Linn and Clackamas.

“I think our guys need to get up for games against teams that we should definitely beat on paper,” Strickland said.

At the beginning of Friday’s game, Jefferson struggled. The Roughriders threw a 1-3-1 zone at the Democrats and their offense looked lost initially. With less than two minutes to play in the first quarter, Jefferson trailed 9-8.

“We’ve been having bad first quarters all season. And it was no different tonight,” Strickland said. “So, that’s something that we have to correct, because at some point, it’s going to catch up to us.”

West hit a three-pointer and a transition layup to give Jefferson a 13-9 lead, and the Democrats never trailed again.

Jefferson benefited from some big plays, often provided by West, Tsohonis or Hepa. Amari Stafford, a 6-foot-5 senior wing, also provided a massive moment when he slammed home an off-the-backboard pass from Tsohonis in the third quarter.

“When (Amari’s) running behind, he always says, ‘Up, up, up,’ to throw it off the backboard. And he finishes,” Tsohonis said.

Jefferson can make big offensive plays. And some big defensive plays, too. But what Strickland says will be the team’s focus for the rest of the season is consistent rebounding and defense.

“Our defense has been slacking a little bit lately,” West said.

Because of a packed game schedule recently, the Democrats' practices have not been incredibly intense of late.

“I’ve been kind of taking it light in practice,” Strickland said. “But, the gloves are coming off.”

That starts with defense. At times Friday, the Democrats came away with huge steals. But at other points, they lost rebounds that should have been theirs.

“I think we’re gonna get better (on defense). They can do it. They’ve shown they can do it at some glimpses during the season,” Strickland said. “But, in order for us to have the confetti fall on us, we gotta do it more consistently.”

On the walls in Jefferson’s gymnasium, the words “Become Legendary” stare down at the court. That has been the Democrats’ motto this season: to become legendary.

They have the talent to do so; all that's needed is for them to string together consistent play for a deep state tournament run.

Said Strickland: “You can walk out of here winning your last game and become legendary. Really, they can become one of the better teams that has ever come out of this state. The 2000 Jeff team was the best. … We’re not that good, but we can be a notch or two below that team.”

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.

RELATED NEWS