PREPS: Grant edges Jefferson for boys basketball title
This time, Grant made the last play.
And, on the fourth try this season, the one that meant the most, the Generals found a way to get the best of Jefferson.
Ty Rankin hit two free throws with seven seconds left to lift Grant to a 63-62 win over Jefferson in a back-and-forth classic at Chiles Center.
The win gave the Generals the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A boys basketball title and avenged seven consecutive losses to the Democrats over the last two seasons.
To get it done, the Generals had to withstand a monster performance from Jefferson senior Khalil Chatman and a scoring drought of more than three minutes down the stretch.
And they had to make one more defensive play.
Jefferson wanted to get the ball to senior Robert Ford driving to the hoop, but the final play turned into a scramble drill after Grant's Aaron Deloney got a hand on Chatman's dribble. Ford recovered the loose ball but was forced to throw an underhanded desperation try toward the backboard at the buzzer.
The final defensive stand was just what Grant coach Robert Key was looking for, telling his players before the final sequence "If they're going to beat us make them attack the basket. Somebody take a charge or get in the passing lane — and they did that."
Rankin led Grant with 22 points and played all 32 minutes. After struggling from the foul line in the semifinals, he made 7 of 8 on Saturday.
Deloney had 14 points, Kelton Samore nine points and 11 rebounds and Damon Hickok eight points and seven boards.
Grant's Darius Guinn finished with 10 points, but his defense — including taking three charging fouls and forcing Ford into a circus attempt in the final second — proved decisive.
His main challenge was to contain the 6-8 Chatman, who finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds and tried to will Jefferson to a second consecutive title.
Without top scorer and Portland Interscholastic League player of the year Marcus Tsohonis, the Democrats got 12 points from Jalen Brown, including a huge 3-pointer late, and a key go-ahead basket from Keylin Vance.
But the Generals made things difficult for 6-10 Kamaka Hepa, who was limited to six points — though he made his presence felt with nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
The game was a can-you-top-this series of 3-pointers and dunk shots much of the way.
Grant used a 22-13 third quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a five-point lead with eight minutes remaining.
The Generals held the lead though a tense and intense final period — until Vance hit a driving floater with 30 seconds on the clock to give the Demos a 62-61 lead.
On Grant's next possession, Samore managed to retrieve a loose ball in a scramble under the basket and call time out with 15 seconds on the clock.
Knowing every foul would earn two free throws, Key instructed his team to look to drive to the basket. Jefferson's defense reacted well when Deloney got the ball, but when the ball got to Rankin he had a chance to penetrate the key and draw a foul against Chatman.
"I shot a 3 and missed it (with Grant up one and 1:17 on the clock). I had to make up for that and make both of those free throws," Rankin said.
Grant won, in fact, despite scoring only seven points in the fourth quarter and making its last field goal with 4:29 remaining, a pull-up jumper by Deloney that made the score 60-55.
Jefferson coach Pat Strickland said the stretch run was when his team missed the injured Tsohonis.
"Obviously we could have used Marcus down the stretch," Strickland said.
Strickland praised Chatman's game.
"He needed one more person to help us out. Khalil pretty much carried us all game long offensively. He did what he needed to do and more. We needed some other guys to step up," Strickland said.
Grant's Deloney picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter, two of them on offense.
Jefferson led by as many as seven points in the first half, including 24-17 at the end of one quarter.
A 9-2 Grant run gave the Generals a 34-33 lead before the Democrats scored the final five points of the half.
Chatman had 13 points for Jeff in the first half, hitting 5 of 6 shots by attacking the rim. Brown was 3 of 5 from distance in the first half for nine points.
Rankin led Grant at the break with 10 points.
"Khalil is so athletic, and he's strong at the same time," said Guinn, who took on the challenge of defending Chatman in the second half. "He's a dominant person. You can box him out, but that doesn't mean he's not going to jump over you and get the rebound. It was tough to take him out of the game."
Jefferson won the rebound battle, 37-27, with 15 offensive rebounds producing 14 Demos points. But the defending champions came up one point short.
Grant shot a little better and made one more 3-pointer on the night, which ended up making the difference.
"We have to do us. We have to focus on us and knock down our shots," Rankin said of Grant staying aggressive throughout the contest. "We're as good as them, and we showed that. They might have beat us three times, but we beat them when it mattered."
Jefferson's coach agreed.
"No game before this meant anything," Strickland said. "This was the game that meant everything, and Grant came out with the win."