The name of the game is survive and advance come this time of the year, and Jefferson High School girls basketball was happy to do that Tuesday night in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.
The No. 12 Democrats (19-7, 14-2 PIL) held off a continued fight from No. 21 Sherwood (12-13, 6-6 Pacific) 56-45 thanks to 19 steals in the game and an all-around performance from sophomore guard Abrianna Lawrence.
The Bowmen were able to find some holes in the Demos’ full-court press, but when it got into the halfcourt, Jefferson put the clamps down inside to deny any action.
“They ran the game plan that we wanted, I think Sherwood did a great job breaking our press,” Demos coach Andre Lawrence said. “It made us change it to a different type of press in the second half, but in the first half we did what we wanted to do. Stop the penetration, but they knocked down shots, so we had to make the adjustment.”
Those shots Sherwood made in between turnovers kept it in the game, which included eight made 3-pointers in the first half. The Bowmen scored 12 points total in the second quarter, all off of four made 3-pointers.
To combat the Bowmen’s offense, Abrianna Lawrence hit two deep balls herself in the first quarter and went into halftime with 11 points to lead the Demos. She also handed out three assists, which helped get sophomore Chauncy Andersen into the mix as well.
Still, Jefferson found itself only up one, 28-27, at halftime as the Bowmen weren’t going to go away despite still missing 6-foot-5 star Ava Heiden who’s been hurt for most of the season.
“The ball didn’t stick, they weren’t afraid of the moment and they played together,” Sherwood coach Jeff Anderson said. “That was the best poise, composure we’ve seen out of them all year … We knew what we were coming into and we talked about it at length yesterday, and the best way to do it is let your play speak for itself and I think they did that tonight.”
To start the second half, Sherwood forced a jump ball and then quickly took the lead 31-28 to send the message that it wasn’t going to go away in the second half.
However, Lawrence hit two more 3-pointers and found Andersen once more for a bucket to go up 36-31.
The Bowmen battled back once more to tie the game at 38 until Demos junior Brooklyn Chatman hit a 3-pointer while being fouled, then hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and go up 42-38.
In the fourth, despite Abrianna dealing with leg cramps, the Demos were finally able to pull away as the shots wouldn’t quite keep falling for Sherwood. Meanwhile the Demos turned up the press once more and saw some more success causing turnovers at midcourt.
“We really kind of talked more, we don’t really talk a lot,” Abrianna said. “We also stayed in front instead of reaching. At the beginning, we kind of helped because we were trying to stop them from driving, but they started to make their 3s, so we tried to adjust to deny them so they would drive more.”
That plan worked out in the end for Jefferson, thanks in large part to Abrianna being everywhere.
She finished with 19 points, five assists, five steals and five rebounds. Plus her 3-pointers came at times when it felt as if the game could slip toward Sherwood.
“She’s our glue, she’s our engine. She keeps us going” Andre, Abrianna’s father, said of the sophomore. “She leads us in almost every category. Right now, she’s just what we do. They follow her, and when we’re down, she’s always going to be there to pick us up, which I appreciate.”
Andersen also had an impressive night despite six missed free throws, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Meanwhile sophomore twins Leila and Carmela Nunez used their tall and lanky bodies to their advantage, especially Carmela who finished the night with seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
The two missed all of last week due to the weather and attending a funeral out of state. Andre said they missed the last game of the season, and then got back into town Monday night before playing this game on Tuesday.
“For both of them to come in and jump on the game plan of what we told them today was really beautiful for Leila and Carmela,” Andre said. “Carmela is really stepping up now, she’s really growing and coming a long way so I’m really proud of her.”
On the Sherwood side, Sabrina Flowers paced the Bowmen with 16 points, including three made 3-pointers.
While the season ends for them, this is just the beginning for Sherwood who returns its entire lineup minus one senior in Jandika Bozeman.
Having this experienced crew filled with shooters and playmakers back, plus a healthy Heiden in 2023-2024, Sherwood is going to be a dangerous squad.
“I’m so excited, especially since we have Ava back next year,” Flowers said. “I’m just excited for our whole team dynamic to come back … It’s just going to open up so many opportunities for us and herself. She’s the glue of our team, she’s just such a positive energy.”
Up next for Jefferson is a March 3 matchup at No. 5 Clackamas. The Cavaliers haven’t lost to an Oregon team all season, and they’ve certainly played some of the best teams the state has to offer.
Abrianna said she’s enjoyed the growth of her team this season due to their bond away from the court. And now they’ll need that growth at its peak in order to knock off the team that many consider the favorite for a state title.
“They’re very good, I know they haven’t lost in the state yet,” Andre said of Clackamas. “We’ll watch tape, see what we can do and see if we can put a good game plan together to try and put our best foot forward to challenge them.”