Jefferson pulls inside job on Grant
The dethroning of the 6A boys basketball champion was an inside job.
Grant, the 2018 state tournament winner, had no answer on Wednesday to the question, "How do you stop Jefferson's bruising inside game?"
The Democrats used their size and beef to beat Grant 87-68 on a quarterfinals night when the Generals also struggled from long distance at Chiles Center.
Jefferson (23-5) advanced to the Friday semifinals and a 3:15 p.m. game against South Salem (23-4), which defeated Tigard 56-46 in Wednesday's fourth quarterfinal.
Grant (21-7) got bumped into the consolation bracket for a 10:45 a.m. Thursday matchup with Tigard (17-10).
Jefferson stayed in the title hunt largely thanks to the combo of 6-7 sophomore Nate Rawlins-Kibonge and 6-8 sophomore Kamron Robinson. They altered or rejected Grant shots, pounded the backboards and repeatedly scored from close range for Jefferson.
The Democrats swatted away numerous penetration moves by the Generals. Rawlins-Kibonge was credited with seven blocks, and Robinson had two.
That meant Grant had serious trouble scoring either inside and outside.
Standout guards Aaron Deloney (25 points) and Ty Rankin (16) got points, but Deloney was only 8 of 24 from the field and Rankin 4 of 16.
And the Generals missed their first 18 3-point attempts, not making one till midway through the fourth quarter.
By then, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Rawlins-Kibonge and Robinson, meanwhile, each finished with 18 points to go with the 22 points of star guard Marcus Tsohonis. Most of the post player's baskets were tap-ins or dunks.
"Our big guys were tremendous on offense and defense," Jeff coach Pat Strickland said.
Everyone on the Jefferson side was inspired to play this game, and for good reason. The Democrats lost to Grant in last year's 6A title game, after beating the Generals in their three other meetings that season. Tsohonis, who is bound for the University of Washington, was injured and couldn't play in the 2018 final.
"In the back of our minds was the championship game last season," Strickland said. "So the guys were fired up."
The 2018-19 Demos also have taken notice that they are not No. 1, not No. 2, but No. 3 in the Oregon School Activities Association RBI-based rankings, behind top-seeded Lake Oswego and South Salem.
"According to the OSAA, we're the third-best team. So we're the underdogs," Strickland said.
Jefferson got off to a quick start on Friday, taking a 16-8 lead in the first 4:52 and hiking it to as many as 12 points in the first quarter.
After the opening period, the Demos were on top 22-14.
Grant pulled to within 25-22 and 29-26 in the second quarter. But with the Generals on their way to an 0-for-12 half from beyond the arc, the Demos put together a key spurt late in the second quarter that boosted their advantage to 44-29.
Jefferson then won the third quarter 20-13 for a 64-42 lead, and it all but over between the Portland Interscholastic League top dogs.
The Democrats finished at 52.1 percent from the field (Rawlins-Kibonge was 8 of 10, Robinson 8 of 13, for a combined 16 of 23, or 69.6 percent).
Grant shot 34.3 percent from the field, and made only 87 percent (2 of 23) from 3-point range.
"I thought our defense had a litle bit to do with that," Strickland said, noting that the 6-5 Tsohonis had asked, and received, the man-to-man defensive duties on 6-1 Deloney.
Deloney said the difference came more when he got to the basket — and ran into help post defenders.
"They have very good bigs that can defend shots, contest them and block them," Deloney said.
But other than that, "We had a lot of open looks — shots just weren't falling," Deloney said. "We just didn't play good at all today. But they defended well."
Grant had split its two league games with Jefferson this season, winning 83-82 on its home court on the Marshall campus, then losing 73-66 at Jeff.
"We had to exploit the mismatches" this time, Strickland said. "We didn't do it at Jeff or Marshall. They're a good team, but that's really why they hung with us. We didn't crash the boards, and we didn't go inside."
Grant coach Robert Key said he kind of saw it coming.
"Hats off to Jeff. They were the better team today," he said. "I knew they were going to figure out our size eventually and exploit it."
The sixth-ranked Generals now have to regroup quickly and beat seventh-ranked Tigard to get to the fourth-place game on Saturday.
Deloney said Grant will be out to show better in its consolation semifinal.
"We're still a team," he said. "I'm going to play hard, get my teammates involved, and try to go get fourth place."
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