PORTLAND – For the past seven seasons, Benson and Grant have ruled 6A Portland Interscholastic League girls basketball.
This season, though, a new team is bidding to break through.
Senior-dominated Wells, with its best team in years, is looking to contend in the PIL. The Guardians showed what makes them so dangerous Tuesday when they smothered Oregon City 49-27 in their opening game in the POA Holiday Classic at Franklin High School.
Wells (6-1) tightened its defense on the Pioneers (4-3) as the game unfolded, holding them to 28.9-percent shooting (11 for 38), including 1 for 13 from three-point range. It was a typical performance so far this season by the Guardians, who are limiting opponents to 28.2 points per game.
“I've been coaching a long time, and this is as good a team defensively as I've had,” said fourth-year Wells coach Anthony Levrets, the former head coach at Utah. “We do a good job in our base, and scout-wise, they do a great job of understanding how other teams score, and they're taking that stuff away.”
After allowing 10 points in the first quarter, Wells gave up eight, six and three points in the next three quarters to dominate a game between teams tied at No. 8 in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll.
“We're super well-coached,” Guardians senior point guard Charlotte Richman said. “We get good scouts and stuff. Being able to take away what they wanted to do, I think they were out of sorts. We talked more, and our energy was up.”
Wells opened a 29-18 lead at half – getting late three-pointers from senior Daphne Reid and freshman Autumn Hart – and extended the gap to 40-22 by late in the third quarter.
Richman, a fourth-year starter, made five three-pointers and finished with a game-high 17 points. Senior Eve Hart had 10 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals and senior Eliza Digiulio added nine points and eight rebounds for Wells, which shot 48.8 percent (20 for 41).
The Guardians – formerly the Wilson Trojans – haven't won a playoff game since making the 5A quarterfinals in 2014. But they believe this season is shaping up to be something special.
“I feel like this team has the best chance to get to the Chiles Center at the end of the year, make it far in the playoffs,” Richman said. “I think just the experience of playing together for like five years now, and everyone kind of being on the same page mentally, we have probably the strongest team we've had my whole time at Wells.”
The team's chemistry shows on both ends of the court.
“We've been playing together since eighth grade, and it feels like we've really come a long way since then,” Digiulio said. “But at the same time, we have a lot of younger players right now, so it's really awesome to have that older group and younger group. It's really great to work together.”
Levrets said his players are multi-dimensional on offense, and all are capable shooters, especially Richman.
“Our point guard is a great shooter, but everyone on our team shoots it well for their position,” Levrets said. “That gets the floor spaced, and we run motion-based stuff, which is way different than most teams. Most teams run dribble-drive stuff. So we're far more old-school in the way we play offense.”
The Guardians know they have plenty of work to do, though, after losing at home to co-No. 5 Benson 48-38 on Dec. 17. The Techsters also handed Wells its only PIL loss last season, when the Guardians finished 7-1 in league, 11-5 overall.
“I'd love to beat them. I know we all would,” Digiulio said. “We'd love to win league. That would be awesome.”
The Guardians led Benson at halftime before the Techsters took control. The teams next meet Feb. 1 at the Marshall Campus.
“They got us in the second half,” Levrets said. “We've got another month to get to the point where we feel like we can compete.”
Oregon City, which split four games at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona last week, got seven points each from sophomore guard Kaitlen Carns and senior guard Emily Billings.
“This was not a good game for us, coming off of a week break,” Pioneers coach Tiffani Traver said. “We haven't been able to practice since we got back from Arizona. We weren't ready to go, and you could tell. It was a rough one.”
Wells gets a big test Wednesday when it meets No. 4 Jesuit (7-1) at 5 p.m. in the POA Holiday Classic. Oregon City will play West Salem (2-4) at 1:30 p.m.
Due to several teams being unable to compete in the three-day event, tournament organizers have opted to forgo the bracket format in favor of optimizing matchups.
Other Tuesday games in the POA Holiday Classic at Franklin:
Co-No. 5 Barlow 61, Sherwood 34: Kennedie Shuler had 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals and Annie Koenig had 14 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the win for the Bruins, who led 30-12 at half.
No. 1 Clackamas 70, Mountainside 37: Freshman Jazzy Davidson collected 25 points, seven rebounds, four assists and seven steals to lead the unbeaten Cavaliers, who shot 50.9 percent. Freshmen Dylan Mogel and Sara Barhoum added 10 points each for Clackamas.
No. 4 Jesuit 60, No. 7 Lakeridge 44: Avery Edwards shot 5 of 9 from three-point range and scored 17 points to lead the Crusaders past the Pacers. Kendra Hicks had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Jesuit. Keelie O'Hollaren made four three-pointers and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and three steals for Lakeridge.
Co-No. 5 Benson 75, West Salem 43: Mahogany Chandler Roberts, a 6-2 sophomore, made 13 of 17 shots and finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and four steals as the Techsters rolled. Sophomore Maurianna Hashemian-Orr and junior Malaya LeSeur added 17 points apiece for Benson, which shot 55.9 percent. Elizabeth Bennett led West Salem with 17 points.
No. 2 Beaverton 64, Jefferson 26: Junior Lainey Spear racked up 22 points, 16 rebounds and six steals as the Beavers dominated the Democrats. Madison Naro added 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks and Zoe Borter had 14 points and six rebouinds for Beaverton.
POA Holiday Classic
Wednesday at Franklin HS
Jefferson vs. Lakeridge, 12 p.m.
West Salem vs. Oregon City, 1:30 p.m.
St. Mary's vs. Mountainside, 3 p.m.
Wells vs. Jesuit, 5 p.m.
Beaverton vs. Barlow, 6:30 p.m.
Benson vs. Clackamas, 8 p.m.