No. 3-state-ranked Roosevelt narrowly led Jefferson 67-65 with eight seconds remaining in the game, when Rider guard Utrillo Morris zinged a pass to wide-open Demir Johnson for a thunderous, climatic final dunk and 69-65 win at home before a capacity-crowd of 900 people.
The Rider boys edged the Demos, the No. 9-ranked team in the state, despite RHS guard Owen Nathan being hobbled with an ankle injury.
“The battle of the North (Portland) was intense,” RHS coach Jamarr Lawson stated after the Jan. 22 game. He cited stellar play by John Fernandis and Demir Johnson coming off the bench. Fernadis shot six for seven and the burly Johnson, also a standout RHS football player, had ten rebounds and five blocks.
Lawson said that Nathan will lace-up for coming games including the next home contest against Ida B. Wells at 7 pm, Feb. 2.
This year’s Riders are making history as the school’s highest-ranking team since the legendary RHS state championship-winning team of 1949. Coach Lawson’s team could also eclipse the 2022 RHS team that finished 6th in state and the 2007 squad that placed second in the smaller-enrollment 5A level.
If Roosevelt wins its remaining Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) games including a Feb. 10 rematch at Jefferson, the Riders will get a top seed in the Feb. 27-March 1 playoffs and clear a path to the 6A state championship tournament March 6-9 at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.
The Jefferson boys, coached by former Oregon State star Pat Strickland, are also prime contenders to make the state tournament at the Chiles Center.
Girls basketball: Demo girls vs. Roosevelt
The No. 2- state-ranked Demo girls are an even better bet. They have a 11-1 record including a 74-12 victory over Roosevelt on Jan. 22. Sh-Niya Denson led the Riders that game with six points.
The Lady Riders are one of the youngest teams in the PIL with nine underclass women on the roster. One of the sophomores is point guard Nevaeh Landrum whom coach Nike Greene says, “is taking leadership and directing her team on the court.” Greene also praised post players Denson, Josie Doughty and Alana Munoz for increasing their offense and rebounds.