PORTLAND -- Jefferson had a lot of hills to scale on its way to the top of the mountain at Portland State’s Viking Pavilion on Monday night, but the Democrats conquered them all to score a victory that will catch eyes in two states.
The Democrats came from behind to knock out Rainier Beach of Seattle, one of the best programs Washington can trot out — in any year — 65-59.
On the way, Jeff had to find a way to stop an 18-point Rainier Beach streak that put the Vikings up by seven midway through the third quarter. And it didn’t look as if the Demos were going to come back on free throws — at one point they were just 5 of 14 from the line.
All this against a team just as talented as anybody else they’ll play the rest of the year.
So how do you do that?
“It’s all those little things,” said Jeff’s Marcus Tsohonis, who had 14 first-half points on his way to a game-high 22. “Taking the charges, blocking the shots, making the shots when we had to, the extra pass. They all add up.”
A splendid 14-point run over two-and-a-half near perfect minutes in the second quarter made it look as if the Democrats (11-5) would run the Seattle Metro League leaders back to the Puget Sound by halftime.
Four different Democrats got in on the party: Jalen Brown and Lamar Washington hit three-pointers, Kamron Robinson muscled inside for a layup and Tsohonis got loose for three fast-break layups. Jeff was now up 38-26 with 54 seconds left before halftime.
The Democrats wouldn’t score again for nearly six minutes. By the time Robinson muscled in a shorty from the front, with three minutes left in the third quarter, Jeff was down 44-38.
“In the third quarter they came out with a lot of energy,” Demo coach Pat Strickland said. “We weren’t ready for it and played a pretty flat third quarter.
“I just told them to stay with it.”
They did. Nate Rawlins-Kibonge had a horrid shooting night, but he hit a layup, then took a charge from Vikings’ speedster Javion Garrett on defense. Keylin Vance hit a pair of free throws — finally — and when Washington dropped an NBA-length three-bell with 20 seconds to go in the quarter, it was all square at 49-49.
From there on it was a staredown to see who would blink first. The two teams fired shots at each other’s defense for four minutes, and with 3:17 left it was tied at 57-57.
The Democrats did it on defense after that. They held the Vikings (13-4) without a field goal the rest of the way — in the last 5:03 of the game, actually — and outscored them 8-2.
Vance added 12 for the Democrats, who also managed to play 32 minutes against good pressure defense and commit only 12 turnovers. They also hit nine of their last 12 free throws.
“We still have a long way to go,” Strickland said. “But I was proud of the way we played tonight.”
The game didn’t count for a thing in anybody’s standings, but there was more than a little pride on the line.
“We know these guys,” said Tsohonis, who is on his way to Seattle to play his college game at the University of Washington. “We played then in AAU ball and we’re on some teams together. I think we really got over a hump tonight.
“It’s always nice to beat a nationally ranked team.”