Benson girls pull off shocking state title win
It was a lopsided Class 6A girls championship game, all right. Just as many people expected.
But this time, the team doing the blowing out was the underdog, Benson.
The Techsters put it all together Saturday night. They played the game of their lives and routed two-time defending champ Southridge 66-42 at Chiles Center, exorcising some demons and leaving no doubt.
"We absolutely shocked the world," Benson coach Eric Knox said.
The Techsters won every quarter and, for all intents and purposes, they had their first girls basketball state title sewed up not long after halftime.
"We wanted this more than anything," Benson guard Bria Dixson said. "We believed we could do this, and we did it."
A year ago, Southridge beat Benson 46-27 on the same court for the title.
On Dec. 29, 2018, the Skyhawks had a tougher time, edging Tech 55-50 in the PIL Holiday Classic at Franklin.
The close loss "proved that we were there," Benson senior wing Tayler Lyday said. "We kind of left that game in the refs' hands, but this game we just took over."
With 6-5 Stanford-bound Cameron Brink, Southridge was the consensus No. 1 team in the state.
Third-ranked Benson paid no attention to any of that. The Techsters came out in attack mode, scored the first six points, led 16-6 after one quarter and never looked back.
Oh, the Skyhawks crawled to within 22-20 midway through the second quarter.
But they were outscored 11-0 over the final 2:24 to trail 33-20 at the half.
And things only got worse for the Metro League champions after that, as the Portland Interscholastic League champs continued their assault.
Benson shot 50.0 percent from the field for the game. Southridge hit 33.3 percent.
The Techsters led 23-13 in points off turnovers and had 22 assists on their 25 baskets.
"That was definitely the best executing game I've ever seen us play," Knox said. "I've seen us play well but I've never seen us play this well. We were locked in from the beginning.
"I didn't expect the game to break that way, but our girls were hungry and just went at them. They were fearless."
In the middle of everything for Benson was 6-0 senior guard Ciera Ellington, who made the all-tournament first team unanimously (as did Brink).
Ellington was the star of stars in the championship game. Most of the night, she worked out of a high-post slot at the free-throw line — wheeling, dealing, facing up to the basket and scoring, or driving to the basket and scoring. On defense, she was a key player, too. She finished with team highs of 20 points, eight assists and three steals. She made 8 of 13 shots from the floor and all four of her free throws. She grabbed six rebounds.
"That was the best I've ever seen her on such a big stage," Knox said.
Ellington, who has signed to play for Loyola Marymount, said this victory was for her school and for other girls like her.
"Benson has always been the laughingstock," she said. "People are like, 'Why didn't you go to Grant or somewhere (else). Benson is so this and that.' But I love Benson. I love my school, my coaches, my teachers, the principal, the vice principal, everybody.
"And this really meant something for the black and brown girls of Portland … if they put their mind to it, they can achieve anything. We've dealt with adversity, injuries, haters, everything you can think of. We wanted to be an inspiration for them in whatever they want to pursue. It doesn't have to be basketball."
Lyday and junior post Aujae Yoakum, who both made the all-tournament second team, added 15 and 13 points, respectively, along with eight rebounds apiece.
"There was a chip on our shoulder. People doubted us," Yoakum said. "But we showed we could do it."
Dixson, who transferred this year from Franklin, came off the bench to get 12 points and seven assists.
"Bria did amazing. She's been a big addition," Lyday said.
"Whether it's in the classroom or in the hallways, we're a family off the court," Dixson said. "That's what shows on the court We play together."
And starting point guard Makenzy Porter, the hustling workhorse, hit two big 3-pointers and helped the Benson defense both lock down on Brink and deny others from contributing much on offense.
Brink wound up with 23 points and 16 rebounds, making 11 of 20 shots. But she had seven turnovers and got into some foul trouble, finishing with four personals.
"We knew if we could frustrate her, we could frustrate the group," Knox said.
Southridge's 42 points were a season-low against an Oregon team. The Skyhawks, who had won 20games in a row, finished 25-4 but with only two defeats to teams in their own state (Tigard beat them 54-50 on Dec. 7).
Benson ended up at 26-4 and with 21 straight wins.
On Saturday, the Skyhawks couldn't match the Techsters in any category other than in the post with Brink. Kaylen Blair was Southridge's second-leading scorer, totaling six points on a couple of 3's.
Take away Brink and the Skyhawks were 7 of 34 from the field (20.6 percent).
After dominating the biggest game of their careers, the Techsters had few dry eyes.
"There were tears of joy. Tears of happiness," Yoakum said. "We put all four quarters together and pushed through.
"Dreams do come true."
"There's a lot of emotion," Dixson said. "I played for my grandma and for people who are gone. And we wanted to do this for the city, for sure."
Knox noted that Porter, the 5-4 spark plug, had predicted this kind of successful finish ever since the late December loss to Southridge.
"Makenzy Porter kept kept trying to tell the state we weren't losing again," Knox said. "She'd been putting the whole state on notice. She said what was going to happen, and it did. She was truly Nostradamus."
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