Balanced scoring carries top-seeded Democrats into 6A semifinals; Beaverton up next

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kamaka Hepa of Jefferson High celebrates after a five-point spree by the Democrats in the final five seconds of the first half gave them a five-point lead on Grant in Wednesday's Class 6A quarterfinal at Chiles Center.For 15 minutes and 56 seconds, the Grant Generals were right where they wanted to be on Wednesday at Chiles Center — within two points of rival Jefferson in the quarterfinals of the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A boys basketball tournament.

But when the halftime buzzer sounded, the top-ranked Democrats had a seven-point lead.

Five quick points might not seem like much in a game Jefferson won 77-61. But that sequence — a 3-pointer by Geno West with less than four seconds on the clock and a steal and bucket from Robert Ford — was followed by a 6-0 run to start the third quarter, and the Democrats led by double digits the rest of the afternoon.

The fourth win of the season over Grant moved top-ranked Jefferson (24-1) into the state semifinals, where the Democrats will meet Beaverton (22-4) at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

No. 9-seeded Grant (17-9) will play on Thursday morning, taking on Westview at 9 a.m. in a consolation game.

For the Democrats, the wake-up call on Wednesday proved to be that quick-strike finish to the second quarter.

"It was big time," West said. "We were only up two, and getting that 3 and then the steal gave us a bit of comfort going into halftime."

All five Jefferson starters scored in double figures, with West's 17 points leading the way. Thomas Miles (on 6-of- 7 shooting) and Marcus Tsohonis each scored 14 points, Amari Stafford added 13 and Kamaka Hepa had 12.

All of Hepa's points came after halftime — eight as Jefferson followed a season-long pattern of building a third-quarter cushion. Those four baskets all came inside — two post-up hoops, a put-back and a feed from Tsohonis.

Hepa said the post-up game has been his focus leading into the state tournament.

West said attacking the basket was the emphasis from Jefferson coach Pat Strickland.

"They don't have shot blockers and they don't take, charges either," West said. "So you've got to get to the basket in order to get some buckets because our shots weren't dropping early."

The 6-9 Hepa picked up two quick fouls, which complicated things a bit for the Democrats.

"I was a little bit nervous, a little bit agitated," Hepa said. "I knew I had to calm myself down and just really focus on my game rather than doing too much. That was one of the reasons behind the two quick fouls."

Jefferson finished 8 for 24 on 3-point shots, and pulled away by looking inside. The Democrats were an efficient 20 for 34 (59 percent) from inside the arc. They had assists on 11 baskets, with West and Tsohonis dishing out three apiece.

The Democrats outrebounded the Generals 36-29, with Hepa grabbing a game-high nine boards (four offensive). Hepa also was credited with three blocked shots, and changed a few more.

Grant was led offensively by 16 points from Aaron Deloney and 14 from Damon Hickok, who had a team-high eight rebounds.

The Generals' plan was to be within two points at the half and take their chances from there. They almost got there, but the second half was another story.

"Everything worked the first half. We just can't take back the second half," Grant coach Robert Key said.

Key said his team lost some composure and forced some bad shots when Jefferson turned up its intensity in the third quarter.

"You could tell (the Democrats') defensive pressure turned up in the second half. I saw them getting after it a little more," Key said. "I saw adversity strike a little bit where we kind of bickered with each other a little bit."

Though his team beat Grant for the fourth time this season, Jefferson's Strickland was not comfortable with the way his team started the game.

"Come out like that (in the semifinals) and we could find ourselves at the half going in down double digits," Strickland said.

West said a strong start will be emphasized as Jefferson prepares for Beaverton. The Democrats beat the visiting Beavers on Dec. 10, 71-63.

"This whole season we haven't had really good starts to the first quarter and that translated to here," West said. "But we've got to start picking it up if we want to win it all."

Beaverton 56, Westview 42 — A 16-7 second quarter pushed the fourth-seeded Beavers past the fifth-seeded Wildcats in the other afternoon sesssion quarterfinal. Jake Estep scored 22 points to pace Beaverton. Westview shot only 32 percent.

Clackamas 68, West Salem 52 — 

The Cavaliers moved into the semifinals with relative ease in the first evening quarterfinal. The Cavaliers (22-4) led 23-15 after one quarter and 36-23 at the half and were never threatened. Point guard Elijah Gonzales of the Cavs led all scorers with 31 points, making 12 of 22 shots from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point distance. West Salem moved into the consolation round with a 21-5 record.

West Linn 89, North Medford 59 — The four-time defending state champion Lions rolled into the semifinals, piling up a 55-22 lead by halftime. West Linn is 22-4 record and on a 16-game winning streak.

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