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Monday, March 11, 2019

Little guys prevail at 6A tournament

by Allan Classen

The big guys ruled the paint, swept the boards and blocked the shots, but in the end the little guys won the day at the boys’ 6A basketball tournament.

Jesuit’s five-guard lineup put away the biggest, most feared team in the tournament, Jefferson, even though the Democrats did the things that usually win games: outrebounding Jesuit 41-27 and outscoring Jesuit 26-14 in the paint.

The Crusaders were giant-killers all week. In the opening round, they dispatched Central Catholic 64-38 even while having no answer for the Rams’ big man, 6-7, 230-pound SataieVior Ayilola, who tipped in shot after shot unmolested. In the second round, equally imposing Fred Harding of Lake Oswego, did heavy damage in the paint in the early going, but Jesuit ran away with it in the second half and won easily. 

Jesuit’s roster calls all five starters guards, and only 6-5 Justin Bieker is beyond typical height for a perimeter player. Their offense is about speed, movement and good passing, and the defense swarms big post opponents to make them pass the ball. They held Jefferson’s 6-7 Nate Rawlins-Kinbonge, who led the tournament with 16 rebounds per game and was second with 19.3 points per game, to 13 points in the championship game while forcing him into four turnovers. Jefferson’s other post, 6-8 Kamron Robinson, scored nine points and pulled four boards against Jesuit, but it was not enough to offset Jesuit’s excellent perimeter play.

An even smaller team than Jesuit, South Salem, provided plenty of excitement before bowing to Jefferson in the semifinals. Guards Jaden Nielsen-Skinner and Trey Galbraith, generously listed as 5-10 and 5-9, ran around and through taller opponents all week while 6-1 Ryan Brown more than held his own in the paint. They stayed with Jefferson for 23 minutes before their lack of depth proved fatal.

Consolation champion Grant was also led by two outstanding guards who did almost all of their shooting. Aaron Deloney, listed as 6-1 but several inches shorter, led the tournament in scoring (20 points per game) and would have had a bushel more if his normally deadly outside shot had been up to par. Undaunted by distance or height, he was just one of the mighty mites who put their stamp on the 2019 tournament.

Only Jefferson and Central Catholic had plenty of tall, high-quality big men. They went a combined 3-3 at the Chiles Center. Meanwhile, players of modest or average height proved skill and teamwork can still win the day.

And young boys can keep believing this is their game even if there are no tall genes in the family.

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