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As a senior, he stepped up in a big way for the Tualatin basketball and baseball teams



DAN BROOD - Jacob Bennett has been a top pitcher at the Tualatin High School the past three springs.TUALATIN — Rebounds.

Pitching.

Perimeter shooting.

Clutch hitting.

Ball distribution.

Defense.

Defense again.

Leadership.

Friend.

Tualatin proud.

As a Tualatin High School senior Jacob Bennett pretty much did it all.

He did it all on the court for the Timberwolf boys basketball team.

And he certainly sparkled on the baseball diamond for the Timberwolves.

“This year meant the world to me,” said Bennett, who graduated from Tualatin High School back in June. “Every year, we’ve had a great group of seniors here. The classes in front of me helped me prepare for the challenges I’d face. And I thought that I was really ready. It was just an awesome year, and I’m really glad I got to experience it with all of these guys.”

You can hear the enthusiasm, as well as the pride, in Bennett’s voice as he talks about his time at Tualatin High School, and in Tualatin, itself.

“It seems like I haven’t been out of Tualatin for more than two weeks at a time my entire life,” Bennett said with a laugh. “I love it here, and I know it like the back of my hand. I had a great time here, and it was just a great year. I enjoyed everything about it.”

And there was plenty to enjoy.

During basketball season, the 6-foot-6 Bennett handled many roles for the Wolves — from outside shooter, to inside defender, and seemingly everything in between.

DAN BROOD - Tualatin's Jacob Bennett looks to get to the basket during a game with rival Tigard.“He willingly expanded his game for us,” Tualatin High School boys basketball coach Rick Osborn said. “Coaching Jacob was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a coach.”

As for baseball, Bennett came into the 2015 season as the reigning Pitcher of the Year for the state of Oregon.

As a Timberwolf senior, Bennett was still dominant on the mound, but he did so much more. He shined in the infield at shortstop and third base. He also was a key figure in the Tualatin offense, batting in the No. 3 spot in the Tualatin batting order.

And the honors followed, as he was named the Three Rivers League Player of the Year in addition to garnering Class 6A All-State first-team honors as an infielder.

Now, Bennett has yet another honor, as he’s been named the Times’ Athlete of the Year from Tualatin High School. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by The Times, at the school for the 2014-2015 school year.

“I couldn’t be happier with how this year went,” Bennett said.

A big decision

Bennett shined for the Tualatin High School boys basketball varsity team as both a sophomore and as a junior.

But, coming into the 2014-2015 school year, Bennett wasn’t sure if he was going to play basketball as a senior. With his future entrenched in baseball (he signed to play college baseball at the University of Oregon), Bennett had to decide if he was going to play basketball as a senior, or just focus on baseball.

“I kept thinking about it,” Bennett said. “Then I went to a volleyball game at Tigard. The gym was so loud. It was awesome. Then it hit me — I said ‘you’ve got to play.’ It was the best decision I’ve made.

“I went and told Oz (Osborn) that I’m playing. He said ‘the kids will look up to you.’”

With that decision, Bennett immediately stepped into a leadership role, as he and Alexander Reid were the only two seniors on the Tualatin boys basketball roster.

“I think we did a good job being leaders,” Bennett said. “I think we made sure that everyone had a good day, every day.”

And the Wolves had plenty of good days.

One of those was Feb. 3, when Tualatin scored a 47-38 home win over Tigard.

“I’ve never beaten Tigard before,” Bennett said. “That was one of the main reasons I decided to play this year, to beat them. I think we had a good year overall.”

The Wolves, with Bennett helping lead the way and filling many roles, went 15-10 overall while playing in the powerful Three Rivers League, which featured Class 6A state champion West Linn.

“He was the lynchpin to what we did,” Osborn said of Bennett. “He was our de facto point guard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid mature as much as a player as he did.”DAN BROOD - Jacob Bennett sank seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points in the Wolves' state playoff win at Reynolds.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t easy playing different positions, but it taught me a lot — it taught me how to handle different things. It was a year of stepping up for everyone.”

Bennett, with his play, earned All-Three Rivers League honorable mention accolades.

Playoff thriller

Maybe the highlight for the Tualatin High School basketball team was a 57-54 road state playoff win over Reynolds back on March 3.

“That was probably the most memorable game,” Bennett said. “It was cool. Going into that game, not many people thought we’d win, but well all thought we’d do it. We were confident.”

In that game, Bennett sank seven 3-pointers on his way to scoring a game-high 23 points. He also pulled down 10 rebounds.

“That was a crazy game,” he said. “It went back and forth. It’s a game I’ll never forget.”

The Wolves saw their season end with a second-round state playoff loss at Central Catholic.

“That kind of sucked,” Bennett said. “But it was a special season. I have no regrets at all about playing basketball. I’m so happy with my decision.”

Diamond gem

After basketball season ended, Bennett, and Tualatin’s strong group of seniors, began their long-awaited final season on the baseball diamond for the Timberwolves.

“This was the year we all talked about growing up,” Bennett said. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but part of the reason you play sports is the experience. Almost all of the seniors grew up together, and it was an awesome group.”

Brothers in arms

One of those seniors Bennett grew up with was Karter Cook, who, with Bennett, formed arguably the strongest one-two pitching punch in the state the past two years.

“We’ve known each other since we were 5-years-old,” Bennett said. “And it’s been nice to be known as that one-two punch. We definitely pushed each other, and no one realizes how hard he worked. He throws his heart out, and he’s a great teammate. We motivated each other to be better.”

DAN BROOD - Jacob Bennett (top row, fourth from left) was part of a close-knit group of seniors on the Tualatin High School baseball team.Expanded role

While he still was part of Tualatin’s super-potent one-two pitching punch, the flame-throwing Bennett excelled in other areas of the game.

“I knew what my role would be,” he said. “I knew what I had to do, and that helped me prepare, and I think it led me to better things.”

When he wasn’t pitching, Bennett usually played in the infield, at shortstop or at third base. He also was one of the team’s top hitters, as he helped the Wolves win 18 games on the season.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

One year after being named the Pitcher of the Year for Oregon, Bennett was tabbed the Player of the Year for the powerful Three Rivers League.

“That caught me off-guard,” Bennett said. “When I got the call, I was shocked. I needed to take a step back and think about it. It was great. It was an unbelievable honor.”

Bennett also was a first-team all-state pick as an infield. Meanwhile, Cook, who will pitch for the Air Force Academy, was named the Pitcher of the Year for both the Three Rivers League and for the state.

“That was awesome,” Bennett said. “Karter pitched unbelievable this year.”

And Bennett’s senior year, and his baseball career at Tualatin, included other special memories.

“Every year, we go to Arizona for spring break,” he said. “Those were some of the best memories. We just hung out and played baseball with our friends. Those were the best times. Also, every year, I set some personal goals, and being Player of the Year was one of those. I feel very honored.”

Family support

Whether he was on the basketball court, or the baseball diamond, Bennett knew he had his own, strong, support group there with him — his family.

That group definitely includes his parents, John and Heather Gibbs.

“Every night, my mom and dad were there to talk about it,” Bennett said. “They’re the best. They’re my No. 1 supporters. And it’s absolutely important to know your family is there for you. That meant so much to me.”

In addition to his parents, Bennett had other strong family support.

“Since third grade, my grandma has videotaped every game,” Bennett said. “This is such a great family. They’re there 24/7 for me.”

Future Duck

Bennett said he’s looking forward to moving onto the next level, where he’ll play baseball for the University of Oregon.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said.

While he had to do a bit of everything his senior year playing basketball and baseball at Tualatin, his only role with the Ducks will be as a pitcher.

“I’m excited for that,” Bennett said. “I’m excited to be going to Eugene and to experience new things.”

Bennett is picking up some college-level experience this summer, playing for the Bend Elks of the West Coast League, a wood bat league featuring college players.

“I’m having a blast,” Bennett said. “A lot of these guys already have experience for at least a year, and getting to talk with them is awesome.”

But, where ever baseball takes him, Bennett will take some special memories with him from his days at Tualatin.

“I really want to say thank you to my family, my friends, all of my coaches and everyone,” he said.

It sounds like, once again, Bennett has absolutely everything taken care of.

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