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Mavericks have started league play 2-2, Jesuit has taken early conference lead

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Mountainside point guard Dezman Baker and the Mavericks are currently ranked eighth in the Class 6A power rankings.

Mountainside could win the Metro League.

So could Westview.

Sunset is capable of getting hot at the right time and swinging the balance of conference power.

Jesuit is the defending league champion, the reigning state champion as well. The Crusaders field a different crew, yet believe in the same core principles and of course, Gene Potter on the sidelines. Through two weeks of league play, Jesuit has beat everybody by 20 points or more. New pieces like James Lang and Liam Ruttledge look right at home. Matt Levis and Roy Bunn are flourishing and foundational pieces. The Crusaders are the top team in the Class 6A power rankings. Plus, they've already played one of the toughest schedules in the state.

Don't forget about Beaverton, either. Dane Erikstrup could not only be the most improved player in Metro, but also the most valuable considering how the Beavers use him on both ends of the floor. Aloha almost knocked off Beaverton at home. Southridge is closer to getting off the schneid than meets the eye.

"I believe the Metro League is the toughest league top to bottom in the entire state," Mountainside head coach Dustin Hewitt said. "All seven teams have the ability to beat any team on any night. That is very rare for a league in our state. If we continue to get better every day, we will put ourselves in a position to have a successful year in the Metro League."

Jesuit looks exceptional. The Crusaders beat Mountainside by 20 at The Stable. If they give Westview and Beaverton the same type of work in the next 10 days, this article could be moot. However, Potter would be the last to call a conference race over before it fully hit its stride. Rest assured the Crusaders are fully preparing for an arduous path in hopes of repeating. Point being, maybe more than any year in recent memory, there is no proverbial Metro favorite. Every team has hope.

"Our league has a ton of parity," Hewitt said. "Most league champions have one or no losses in league. I wouldn't be surprised if our league champ had three or four losses. Until someone can consistently beat Jesuit, I would have to put them in the driver's seat for now."

The Mavericks are currently eighth in the 6A power rankings after going 11-1 in non-league play. They lost to Beaverton by two, but beat Westview by two in a week, speaking to the nip-and-tuck nature of a league once ruled by elites only. Mountainside received a huge boost over the offseason when Connor McClean came over from Southridge and Bennett Giebels transferred in from Beaverton. Each is an accomplished, seasoned senior. McClean was the Skyhawks' defensive stopper, capable of masking point guards, wings or posts. He's casted in the same role under Hewitt, but with additional offensive/playmaking responsibilities. Giebels is a walking bucket. He's one of the 6A's top scorers who put a 30-piece on Benson early in the season. Giebels' game is throwback, but overly effective. His quirky off the bounce game keeps opponents off-kilter. His physicality uproots defenders and surprises inside. And, Giebels can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. As a Beaver, Giebels gave Central Catholic 19 points in limited minutes in the first round of the 6A playoffs last year. Both he and McClean have valuable postseason experience.

"McLean is an elite defensive player," Hewitt said. "He has the ability to limit an offensive player while also playing solid team defense. Bennett Giebels has a knack for scoring and drawing fouls."

Senior post Andrew Ingalls earned All-Metro recognition last season as a junior. At 6-foot-8, Ingalls can be automatic inside the lane offensively and can agitate the rim on defense.

"Ingalls brings size, and constant effort and hustle," Hewitt said. "He is a terrific rebounder and is an improving finisher inside."

Juniors Nate Mouzong and Sammy Cohen and sophomore Dezman Baker head up Mountainside's guard rotation. Senior wing Grayson Rowell is one of the best outside shooters in the league. Mitch Rose is a multi-purpose small forward who is a great passer, open floor player and connector in the half-court.

"Because of our depth, our lineups will be fluid," Hewitt said. "Having a healthy competition in practice and having guys push each other the entire year will only make everyone better."

Mountainside hosts Sunset on Friday at 7 p.m. then travels to Aloha on Feb. 4 for a 7 p.m. tip.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Mountainside shooting guard Grayson Rowell and the Mavericks are currently ranked eighth in the Class 6A power rankings.

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