The Grant Generals (9-3, 5-0) have made an early statement through the first five games of the PIL season: They’re coming after you and they’re bringing it all game.
“We have to play our game against every team we play,” Grant head coach Michael Bontemps said following the Generals’ win over Wilson Thursday night. “This works, pressure basketball.”
The Generals have outscored their opponents by an average of 82-45 in league play. On Thursday night, Grant looked to be in a battle down to the wire when they only led Wilson 26-23 at halftime. Before you knew it, the game was over as Grant’s pressure wore down the Trojans and the Generals led 53-32 going into the fourth quarter. They’re on a six-game winning streak dating back to their final non-conference win over Tualatin, who beat No. 2 Oregon City this season.
Bontemps saw the success full-court pressure has brought defending 6A champion Oregon City. So, he modeled his scheme based on theirs, with a slight variance.
“It’s something Oregon City does,” he said. “What we do differently is we’re a man-to-man instead of a trap.”
It’s been a process though for Grant to get to this point. They started off the season with an uninspiring 49-44 loss to Sunset. Bontemps said his team just hadn’t fully bought into the idea of pressure basketball.
“For me, we had a lack of energy.”
After the season-opening loss, the Generals won three straight games against Westview, Aloha and Pendleton. That’s when Bontemps saw the light switch on for his team.
“We started believing in the pressure against Westview and Aloha,” he said.
Not only does Bontemps have a team that’s bought in this season, but he has a team with talent as well. Sophomores Nina Radford and Khiarica Rasheed have come into their own as top scorers. Junior guard Reagan Mims has also proven to be a consistent threat to score double figures.
“For Khiarica it’s her rebounding and post moves. She takes her time, finishes really well,” Bontemps said. “Nina is just a great shooter. If she gets an open look, she buries it.”
Like buying into the pressure defense, the development of talent took time for Bontemps’ team.
“We’re turning into a varsity team. In the years before, I’ve had to rely on my freshman to be better. With freshman there’s a growth spurt and pace of the game to get used to.”
Those freshman are now juniors and sophomores with upper-class experience under their belts. They’re a confident bunch that is beginning to understand what it takes on a nightly basis to become league champions.
“Now, they’re grown up. The next two years should be golden,” Bontemps said.
While Grant is focused on finishing the regular season with a PIL title, Bontemps has his sights set a little higher for his team.
“This is what we’ll need to prepare ourselves for the playoffs. The PIL won’t be looked at highly. We have to be preparing ourselves for the next non-league opponent we’re going to play.”
Whoever that next non-league opponent is in February will be tested for 32 minutes by a menacing defense. As PIL opponents have learned so far, it’s a mentally and physically exhausting task.