Posted On: 12/31/17 1:00 PM
Oregon’s defending 6A champions and this season’s preseason favorite, Jefferson, has lived up to their lofty expectations in in 2017. They opened by beating PIL rival Benson 112-37, reached the championship of the Iolani Classic Championship in Hawaii, then narrowly lost to national power Mater Dei 54-49 in the Les Schwab Invitational semifinals. Yesterday they faced their toughest in-state threat in the LSI third place game, as they edged Grant 79-74 behind Kamaka Hepa’s triple double (13 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks).
With Texas-bound Hepa, Marcus Tsohonis, Robert Ford, Jalen Brown and Khalil Chatman in their starting five, plus a talented bench, Jefferson might be the best team in Oregon. But they’re not necessarily unstoppable. As we head towards 2018, who are the most likely teams to take down the Democrats?
1. West Linn
The Lions could argue that they’re the most talented team in the state. They started the LSI by taking care of Mt. Hood contender Oregon City 77-52 behind Oregon State football commit Keishon Dawkins’s 18 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow senior Jalen Thompson provides perimeter defense and a reliable 3-point shot and junior point guard Drayton Caoile is at least Division II talent. But their difference makers will be sophomore talents Bryson Crockett and Micah Garett, who shot 7 of 7 from deep against Oregon City.
While Jefferson has a largely new team from last season (three returning contributors), Lincoln has the exact same squad as a year ago. They experienced group has earned quality wins against West Salem, South Eugene and Clackamas. The Cardinals are balanced, but are led by Bryce Sloan, a Division II-caliber player. Even if Sloan plays tremendous, it will be very tough for Lincoln to pull of what would be a monumental upset, but they’ll have two chances to do so in league play: On January 9 and January 27.
Undefeated (9-0) against Oregon opponents, the Skyhawks are Metro League favorites and have the size to contend with the Democrats. Their most talented player is Filip Fullerton, a 6-foot-8 inside and outside threat who is committed to Portland State. They also boast Bradley Bickler, a 6-foot-7 Oregon State commit and a couple of 6-foot-3 wings in Brock Henry and Zach Galvin. It will be tough for them to match up with Jefferson, but if they were to face the Democrats in the playoffs, they would have a chance.
The Olympians might, statistically, have the best high school basketball player in the state. Teagan Quitoriano averaged 29 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, while shooting .430 from three-point range a year ago. He is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound Oregon football commit and should make a case for 6A player of the year (Hepa is the favorite). This season, they’ve beaten South Eugene, Lincoln and McNary (twice). They’d need a special game from Quitoriano and from their defense to stop Jefferson, but it’s possible, although highly unlikely, that they could knock off the state champs.
Yes, Grant. The Generals lost 79-74 to the Democrats yesterday, but had the lead with just over a minute left before giving up the game’s final six points. Jefferson is certainly deeper than Grant. And they’re starting five is better. But it’s not that much better. The Generals top five of Aaron Deloney, Ty Rankin, Froggy Hickok, Darius Guinn and Kelton Samore have the athleticism and size to hold their own against Jefferson. Plus, the Generals like to shoot. They’ll get at least two more chances against the Democrats, on January 6, February 16 and maybe, just maybe in the state tournament.