Sibayla Jensen, Eboni Clay helping Grant girls basketball get better every day
With COVID taking center stage the past two weeks for Portland Interscholastic League winter sports teams, just getting out on the court makes for a nice night.
For Grant High girls hoops, who just got back four players for its game at Lincoln on Wednesday from COVID, the night turned out to be a little bit better than their opponent.
The Generals snuck away with a 49-47 victory on a night where Lincoln had only nine players on the roster and was down its head coach due to COVID.
Still, the game counts all the same and gets Grant above .500 at 7-6 overall and moves the Generals to 3-1 in league play. The Cardinals are now 8-5 overall, 1-4 in the PIL.
"Both teams are going through a lot right now, the whole league is," Grant coach Art Rojas said. "People are just competing and it was a crazy game."
Providing some calmness for Grant were its guard duo of senior Sibayla Jensen and sophomore Eboni Clay as the game went back and forth in the final quarter thanks to Lincoln's Kareena Modha and Jasmine Bieniek hitting some 3-pointers. The Cardinals hit eight as a team on the night.
Grant's duo combined for 32 of the Generals' 49 points (Clay 17, Jensen 15) and also started plenty of fastbreaks with steals or tight defense on the Cardinals.
"Sibayla and Eboni have consistently been our leaders the whole year," Rojas said. "They play hard and they do a little bit of everything. They can shoot it, they can get to the rim and they play pretty solid defense."
An example of the latter came to start the second half when Jensen caught the Cardinals sleeping on the in-bounds pass, stole it and coasted in for two.
Jensen finished with four steals and helped stuff the Cardinals up top with their guards, or even down low by keeping her hands up and being an obstacle in the paint.
Meanwhile Clay gets the job done using her legs and the quickness she provides.
At the line up 49-47 with about 11 seconds to go against Lincoln, Clay missed her second free throw, but a loose ball to the left corner allowed Clay to chase it down for the offensive board and take more seconds off the clock, helping Grant eventually hold on for the win.
Basically, Jensen provides the muscle while Clay dashes opponents with her speed.
"She's a senior and she's just a strong kid," Rojas said of Jensen. "I think people underestimate her strength. She's more strength and (Clay) is all speed. She's got real nice long arms and she's got great speed. That's a good combination."
Clay is a solid representation of where the Generals are at as a program with only four seniors and plenty of underclassmen like Clay getting significant minutes.
COVID might have thrown a wrench into the process, but Rojas has still seen plenty of growth.
"They're developing, but we play and then we have to reset with everything going on out there," Rojas, who's coaching Grant this year with normal head coach Michael Bontemps on medical leave, said. "But they're picking up everything well and working hard, it's a whole new system for them. They're giving a good honest effort every day."
The road only gets tougher for Grant as it has two games with Benson, one against Ida B. Wells and one against Jefferson still on the board. Those three plus the Generals currently take up the top four in the PIL standings.
Grant already lost to Wells 57-31 during the PIL showcase, but the development is there for the Generals squad.
And Rojas thinks there's plenty more growth to be seen along the way.
"Our best ball is a long way down the road," Rojas said. "We need to space the floor better offensively, and defensively we need to play the game more with our feet than our hands.
"But they're giving a good effort and we're getting better every day."
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