Benson's Mauriana Hashemian-Orr drives against Clackamas' Avery Peterson in Friday's semifinal. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Benson's Mauriana Hashemian-Orr drives against Clackamas' Avery Peterson in Friday's semifinal. (Photo by Jon Olson)

PORTLAND – Heading into Friday's semifinal showdown with reigning state champion Clackamas, Benson girls basketball coach Eric Knox took what he called an “unprecedented” simple approach.

No extensive film breakdown, no special defenses, no overthinking.

“You know what our strategy was? Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Knox said. “The closest we prepared for Clackamas was me going to Clackamas Town Center today to buy this shirt.”

As it turned out, Knox pushed all the right buttons as his sixth-seeded Techsters blew out to a 20-point lead and held on to beat the No. 2 Cavaliers 51-47 in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament at the Chiles Center.

Senior post Mahogany Chandler-Roberts had 19 points and 15 rebounds and senior point guard Mauriana Hashemian-Orr had 17 points and eight rebounds as Benson (23-4) handed the Cavaliers their first loss to an Oregon team since Beaverton defeated them in the 2022 semifinals.

The win avenged a 69-64 loss to Clackamas in the POA Holiday Classic in December.

“We've seen Clackamas. We know their style of play,” Chandler-Roberts said. “Coach said at shootaround today, 'If you don't know what Clackamas is like, then what are you doing?' We didn't study on them or nothing. We just went out there and played together and played our game.”

Knox said the Techsters were “the best version of ourselves” on Friday.

“I saw this in us,” he said. “We've been building since the snow break, and we put it together.”

The Techsters (23-4) can win their first state championship since 2019 on Saturday when they meet top-seeded South Medford in the final. Benson defeated the Panthers 68-58 in the final of the Capitol City Classic in December.

“We know the job's not done. We have one more,” Hashemian-Orr said. “We played South Medford in the beginning of the season, and we know that they want the redemption.”

Benson lost to South Medford 53-47 in the quarterfinals in its last state-tournament appearance in 2022. Leading up to that tournament, Chandler-Roberts injured her ankle in practice and did not play at the Chiles Center.

“It's such a great opportunity to be able to play South Medford,” Chandler-Roberts said.

Benson dominated Clackamas in the first half, getting 11 points each from Chandler-Roberts and Hashemian-Orr to build a 31-16 halftime lead. The Techsters' quickness and physicality frazzled the Cavaliers, who shot 5 of 24 from the field, including 2 of 11 from three-point range.

Clackamas junior forward Jazzy Davidson, who entered the tournament averaging 26.1 points, missed her first seven shots and had four points at halftime.

“We were really on our heels in the first half,” Davidson said. “Some of the calls really affected us, and it ended up showing on the offensive side.”

Benson extended the lead to 42-22 on a three-pointer by Hashemian-Orr midway through the third quarter. But the 6-foot-1 Davidson stirred to life, and the Cavaliers began chipping away at the lead.

Davidson scored 11 points in the third quarter, the final two drawing Clackamas within 46-34 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers started playing with more urgency, and when Hashemian-Orr fouled out with 5:23 left, the Techsters struggled to get into their offense.

“Man, I was worried,” Knox said. “I was like, dang it, I just blew the game. My coaches were telling me to pull her out, but I didn't know how I could pull her out. I just had to ride with her. But I know my team. If she fouled out, I knew the character of my team. I knew they'd hold it down in her absence.”

For Hashemian-Orr, it made for a harrowing final five minutes as a spectator.

“It was stressful,” she said. “But I had my coaches by my side, and I was praying on the sideline. When I fouled out, I was kind of disappointed in myself, and I kind of wanted to cry, but I knew it wasn't over. I knew that our team had that.”

Davidson made a three-pointer to cut the lead to 50-47 with 39 seconds to go. Benson was able to protect the ball on the ensuing possession until Cavaliers junior Allie Roden fouled Chandler-Roberts with eight seconds left. She made the second of two free throws to ice the win.

“It was a little scary,” Chandler-Roberts said. “I kind of almost had a little panic attack, but then I realized, you know, these are my girls. We just needed to play together and we just got the 'dub.'”

Knox's approach to the game reflected his belief in the Techsters. He said he didn't want to “over-prepare” and make the Cavaliers “larger than life.”

“I didn't want our kids to get psyched out,” Knox said. “I told our girls, 'We're not doing film. … We're not going to worry about them, they''ve got to worry about us.' We just said we're going to do what we do. And I said, 'We're enough. We've got enough to beat them.' And we proved it tonight.”

Davidson finished with 24 points and seven rebounds to lead Clackamas, shooting 9 of 20 from the field, 2 of 7 from three-point range. Roden added 13 points and five rebounds.

Davidson said the loss will serve as motivation for the Cavaliers, who start five juniors.

“It's kind of the same feeling freshman year losing to Beaverton in the semifinals,” Davidson said. “We just didn't play our game, and it's so disappointing.”

No. 1 South Medford 46, No. 5 Willamette 43: The Panthers (25-3) survived a scare from the Wolverines (21-8) – a team they beat by double digits in both meetings in Southwest Conference play – to earn a spot in the state final for the second year in a row.

Sophomore guard Taylor Young scored 17 points, junior guard Sara Schmerbach had 14 points and seven rebounds and 6-3 sophomore post Mayen Akpan had eight points, 18 rebounds and two steals in the win.

Panthers coach Tom Cole admitted to having some anxiety about facing the Wolverines a third time this season. South Medford improved to 15-0 against Willamette since the 2013-14 season, but Friday was the closest win during that stretch.

“From the time that the brackets came out, I know how good Willamette is, and we were lucky to beat them twice in conference,” Cole said. “They know us maybe better than we know ourselves at points. They were dialed in.”

Still, the Panthers found a way, giving them a crack at their first official state title since 2012.

“I think we hit really big shots when we really needed to hit them,” Young said. “After playing them a couple times, they know what we're doing. So we had to all figure out a way to adapt to that and score.”

South Medford led 41-33 early in the fourth quarter but Willamette rallied to tie at 43-43 on a drive by junior Brynn Smith with 47 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, the Panthers struggled to get up a shot before senior Kim Ceron-Romero was fouled on a reach by junior Isabella Harms with two seconds left on the shot clock and 9.6 seconds on the game clock.

Ceron-Romero made the first free throw and missed the second, but Akpan grabbed the rebound and passed out to Young, who was fouled with 4.8 seconds to go. She made both free throws for a 46-43 lead.

“I was just really glad that I got it,” Akpan said of the rebound. “I was like, I have to get this rebound for the team.”

Young said of Akpan's play: “It was just amazing. It just helped us so much. Once she got that rebound, it kind of sealed the game.”

After a timeout, Willamette threw a long inbound pass that was intercepted by Akpan.

Akpan, who had 19 points and 18 rebounds in a quarterfinal win over Southridge, continued her outstanding play in the postseason.

“Huge,” Cole said of Akpan. “We're not here without her and we don't win without her. She's a pivotal piece of what we do.”

Akpan was a role player on last season's team.

“It feels really nice that I can really have a part in the game and contribute to what everyone else is doing,” she said, “and be one of those players that the team can rely on.”

Willamette lost in its first semifinal appearance since winning the 5A title in 2014. Smith made three three-pointers and finished with 15 points and Harms added 13 points.