Portland — Back in 2010, the Jefferson Democrats were on top of the 5A hoops world. Led by Coach Ikeya Newton, Ariel Reynolds, and Jordan Reynolds, Jefferson propelled themselves to the summit of Class 5A by taking out Wilsonville to win their second state championship in three years. Fast forward to 2021 and nearly 2022 in the latest edition of youth revival, the Democrats seem to have life inside a program that has struggled so much in the last decade. Led by four freshman starters, Jefferson sits at 3-2 this season, including a 2-0 mark in PIL action thus far. They exited out for Christmas break after putting up a battle with #7 Barlow on the road 52-56, an impression of the talent that has arrived on scene at Jefferson and has the capability to propel them back into the state playoffs. With the weather permitting PIL Holiday Classic approaching, the Democrats have a chance to raise more eyebrows and build a case for why they should be taken seriously.
Watching this team was certainly an eye popper, a strong contrast from the Jefferson teams I had gotten accustomed to seeing play. The chemistry is real in every meaning of the term, these girls are familiar with one another, and it shows every possession on the floor. In all seriousness, they should’ve beat Barlow if it wasn’t for some cold shooting and defensive lapses that resulted in some Bruin treys. The team is young, but the potential and talent cannot be understated. Abrianna Lawrence is a beast on the floor, and it was a treat to watch her on film. She compares to the likes of Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell: An athlete who runs a Ferrari motor, has the range and quick decision-making from downtown, and is also not afraid to drive to the rack and get physical. Her efficiency is also good, backing up her natural talent of being able to drill treys whenever she feels like it. She’s the two-way offensive threat that the Democrats have needed for years.
Before Lawrence got rolling against Barlow, my awe was initially locked upon Charisma Johnson. She’s like Sydney Hilliard of Wisconsin, a crafty guard who can finish buckets creatively. She might be smaller than the posts she drives on, but she is fearless in her pursuit of the basket. She not only drives but also finishes the play, with a decent chance of drawing contact and heading to the charity stripe. If she can open up her deep range game consistently, Johnson and Lawrence might be an unstoppable duo for most opponents in the PIL and in 6A. Now if you want energy for your team, look no further than the young lady who got warned by the refs about it: Chauncy Andersen. The Democrats post presence lives and breathes through her, and she made the paint a no-fly zone against Barlow during set offenses. She crashes the glass and is physical with the opponent, sparing no opposition any mercy as she fights for boards and puts them back up or pushes them into transition. Andersen is a talented middle who will only get better as she progresses and will be painting a no-fly marker for the next four years at Jefferson. Senior Ja’Oshia Jones comes off the bench for the Democrats but provides some leadership and direction on the floor when she does. She contributes to the effort on both sides of the ball, bringing experience and wisdom to such a youthful roster.
The team is effective inside and outside offensively, can drill free throws with relative ease, and clogs up the post on defense. They should’ve beat Barlow: They led almost the whole way and kept the Bruins at arm’s length. Their ability to close out games will come naturally with more experiences at the HS level and more opportunities to win close matches. On defense, they need to work on perimeter control and transition defense, both of which proved to be fatal in their loss to Barlow. Their 2-3 zone is great for forcing opponents into taking less efficient shots, but guarding those shooters is part of the equation, something that the Bruins exposed via their numerous open looks from deep. Once they clean up their defense and really hit their stride, the Democrats will be a tough outing for most teams in 6A and its reasonable to expect them back in the playoffs this March. This program will only get better as time goes, their freshman will only improve with experience, and we could be talking about some epic battles between them and Benson in league play for the next 2-3 years. Head Coach Andre Lawrence has himself a team ready to win, can he take them far into the playoffs and restore the Democrats to their glory days? There’s no reason to believe otherwise….