Another week of 6A Portland high school basketball is in the books. Here are five thoughts I took away from the first week of league play:
Boys: PIL up for the taking.
Fifth-ranked and two-time defending 5A state champion Jefferson (5-4, 2-1) has ruled the PIL over recent years. It looked like the Democrats were the obvious favorites again this year, and could possibly go through league play undefeated. Their quickness and size is difficult for teams to match.
Apparently Lincoln (7-4, 3-0) didn’t get the memo. The Cardinals upset Jefferson 65-64 Saturday night at the PIL Showcase. Jonah Pemberton, the team’s top scorer, converted a three-point play with five seconds left to cap the win in dramatic fashion. Lincoln actually led most of the game before a Jefferson run in the fourth quarter forced the need for Pemberton’s heroics. The Cardinals have nine seniors on the roster, and that leadership will no doubt pay dividends in league play.
Lincoln is on top for now, but can’t afford a hiccup. The Cardinals proved that the league is very much up for grabs and won’t be a runaway for the Democrats. The rematch between the two teams on February 10 should be fun.
Girls: No Portland-area teams separating from the pack
South Salem (11-2, 5-0) is a deserved number one. Their only two losses have come to teams outside of the state. The closest of their 11 wins was a 12-point victory over No. 8 Jesuit in the season opener. Katie McWilliams appears to be well on her way to winning 6A Player of the Year. What about the Portland-area teams though?
No. 2 Oregon City (10-2, 2-0), the defending state champs, are 10-2 and on a five-game winning streak. Still, they’ve struggled to score at times this year. They scored just 41 and 38 points in their two losses to Tualatin and West Linn, respectively. The Pioneers also went through long droughts in their win against No. 6 Clackamas on Friday night. However, they did beat the next two teams below, which may be reason enough to call them the best Portland-area team for the time being.
No. 4 Beaverton has been impressive. They’re 9-2 and have a lot of experience in their starting five. However, their two losses came to South Salem and Oregon City by an average of 25.5 points. The Beavers are a favorite to win the Metro League, but the severity of their two losses against the state’s top two ranked teams is hard to look past.
No. 5 St. Mary’s (8-4) may be the most talented team in the Portland-area. They’re a perfect 4-0 in Three Rivers League play. They have great guards and a solid post. They have wins over No. 6 Clackamas (by 34), No. 8 Jesuit and Tualatin, who beat Oregon City. Their in-state losses came to No. 2 Oregon City by 16 points and sixth-ranked Glencoe in the Nike Interstate Shootout. Like the Pioneers and Beavers, the Blues are good, but still have a lot to prove as league play continues.
Boys: Big week for Tigard and Oregon City.
The Tigers entered the week with a 6-3 record, but lacked a win of substance. They failed to beat their three toughest opponents, No. 3 David Douglas, No. 10 Clackamas and Oregon City. On Tuesday, the Tigers drubbed a 5-6 Beaverton team 64-29. The Beavers may have a below .500 record right now, but will likely earn one of the Metro League’s four automatic playoff spots. On Friday, Tigard earned their best win of the season so far, 48-43, over rival Tualatin, who was 8-1 going into the matchup. The Tigers will be tested again next week against No. 8 Newberg and 7-4 Lakeridge.
Oregon City was in a similar boat entering the week. The Pioneers were 5-5 and their best win was over Tigard. They picked up two tight wins against quality Mt. Hood Conference teams this week. Oregon City knocked off Reynolds 54-51 on Tuesday night. The Raiders, with Oregon State commit Drew Eubanks, lost to No. 2 Central Catholic by just four points on Friday. The Pioneers followed up their big win with a dramatic victory over a top-ten opponent. Chris Mengis made a putback layup with three seconds left to beat No. 10 Clackamas 59-57 on Friday night. It was a good week for the Pioneers, who sit at 2-0 in league play with Central Catholic and No. 3 David Douglas.
Girls: Roosevelt not a PIL championship contender.
The Lady Riders (8-3, 1-2) were one of the non-conference surprises in 6A. Roosevelt went 7-1 entering the week and were on a six-game winning streak. Many wondered if the Lady Riders were for real, or if their record was a product of a weak non-conference schedule. I think we can agree on the latter.
Roosevelt started league play with a 48-38 win over Benson. Not dominant, but very business-like. Then, they faced Lincoln on Thursday night. The Lady Riders were held to just ten points in the first two and a half quarters of their 60-38 loss.
Perhaps Thursday’s performance was an aberration for Roosevelt. They faced Grant, a favorite to win the PIL, on Friday night. The Generals dominated 73-43.
Roosevelt was outscored by an average of 26 points against two of the 3-0 teams in PIL play. I think it’s safe to say the Lady Riders aren’t a contender for the PIL crown. Although, they are definitely talented enough to claim one of the league’s four automatic playoff berths.
Boys and Girls: Games are fun.
A lot of off-court stories stole the headlines over the past week, and rightfully so. Lake Oswego removed Mark Shoff as head coach after an altercation with a player, new allegations arose regarding the hazing of the Lakeridge dance team, and Reynolds’ girls basketball team was forced to forfeit two games after disciplinary actions against players left the team short-handed. All three instances deserved attention. The safety and teaching of high school kids is of the utmost importance.
With that said, I think every high school sports fan can agree that the games themselves, and the individual accomplishments within the games, are a lot more fun to talk about. The same goes for reporters. I took a little more privilege in covering games this week after dealing with some of the off-court issues. When times are good, we can often become spoiled and a little ungrateful. This week reminded me just how much fun the games, players and coaches are. Hopefully all five of my takeaways next week will be from on the court.