PORTLAND – Benson showed Tuesday night that it isn't quite ready to relinquish its crown in Portland Interscholastic League girls basketball.
The No. 5 Techsters, who had their 48-game league winning streak snapped by Jefferson a month ago, jumped the No. 4 Democrats in the PIL standings by beating them 63-56 at the Marshall Campus. If Benson wins out, it will clinch at least a share of its eighth consecutive league title.
“Overall, we just came out from the jump with high intensity,” Benson senior post Mahogany Chandler-Roberts said. “Last game, we took a fall, but we just bounced back real quick.”
Senior guard Eboni Clay scored 23 points and Chandler-Roberts added 18 points for Benson (13-4, 9-1), which handed Jefferson (15-2, 8-1) its first loss to an Oregon team this season.
“We really felt like we just needed another game to pick each other up,” Clay said. “I feel like the last game, we weren't really all locked in. But coming into this game, everyone was super locked in, and we had good vibes. We were just ready to win.”
Benson had won 17 in a row over Jefferson before falling to the Democrats 65-60 in the PIL Showcase at Franklin High School on Jan. 6. The Techsters were eager to set the record straight Tuesday.
“We played inspired,” Benson coach Eric Knox said. “I think last time we played them, we didn't play with a lot of energy. I think we've held the PIL down for so long, a little bit of complacency set in. So I think we came in here and brought our A game, and was the best version of ourselves.
“All credit to Jeff, because they're tough, and you've got to bring your A game to walk out of here with a W.”
The 5-6oof-6 Clay helped set the tone early with 10 points in the first quarter. Her three-pointer late in the quarter put Benson ahead to stay at 18-15.
“Today I was really focused on playing aggressive and just shooting, not getting frustrated,” said Clay, who made five three-pointers. “Miss a shot, keep shooting.”
Clay had 15 points in the first half as the Techsters led 29-21. Her three-pointer midway through the third quarter gave Benson its biggest lead at 39-28.
Chandler-Roberts said playing from in front was key.
“It was really important because I feel like once we start the game off good, then we're going to finish the game off good,” she said. “Once we came out with energy and intensity, it kind of set Jeff back a little bit, so they're not able to run with us.”
But Jefferson, looking to take a big step toward its first league title since 2011, refused to go away. The Democrats fought back behind junior guard Abrianna Lawrence and freshman forward Makenzee Lawrence, and when junior Mylee Lawrence hit a 10-foot scoop shot off the glass, they were within 43-42 late in the third quarter.
Benson responded with the next seven points, getting another triple from Clay, to lead 50-42. Jefferson managed to get within 58-56 on two free throws by Makenzee Lawrence with 1:06 remaining, but Clay quickly answered by scoring off a feed from Chandler-Roberts, and the Techsters closed out the game with free throws.
“We just had to stay focused and stay collected together,” Chandler-Roberts said. “I feel like it all came together as a team, just locked in, and doing what we had to do.”
Makenzee Lawrence scored 16 points and Abrianna Lawrence had 12 points for Jefferson, which also got eight points from junior guard Chauncey Andersen. Benson geared its defense against Abrianna Lawrence and Andersen, who combined for 48 points in the first meeting.
“We know what they can do,” Knox said. “We know that those two are literally the head of the snake. Those two get going, the team gets going, so we really concentrated on them, wanted to slow them down, and make other people beat us. And it worked.”
Andersen said that the Techsters “had a little more intensity” than the first game.
“We just needed to execute our game plan a little better,” Andersen said. “But we're coming out with our heads up high because our end goal is not just to beat Benson, it's to win state. And that's still so much on the table.
“We just need to focus in practice. After we got that first one, we laid back a little bit. That's what showed today.”