Benson continued its magical season with a 32-28 win over No. 2 Tigard in the quarterfinals and a thrilling 54-53 win over No. 3 Beaverton in the semifinals. In the win over Beaverton, Tayler Lyday went coast-to-coast and scored a game-winning layup as time expired.
To recognize the achievement, Benson High School principal Curtis Wilson confirmed to KGW he was going to buy tickets for Benson students who wanted to support the Lady Techsters. He said students needed to be at the Chiles Center by 2:45 p.m. to get their free ticket from him.
Benson took on top-ranked Southridge for the state championship, but the Skyhawks defended their title defeating the Lady Techsters 46-27.
Original story published on March 6, 2018:
PORTLAND, Ore. -- There is growing excitement at Benson High School in Northeast Portland. The girls basketball team is one of the final eight teams still alive in the 6A state basketball tournament.
It’s been more than 20 years since the last girls team from Benson made it that far. But this team is not surprised.
“Playing with all these girls, we’ve been here since our freshman year. We knew our freshman year we were going to be special. So just building up and going to the state tournament is a dream come true,” said point guard Makenzy Porter.
You can feel the relaxed confidence of players who know each other well. Several of the young women began playing basketball together in the seventh grade.
Imani Harris joined the others in eighth grade.
“I feel I’ve grown sisters that are not my blood sisters. It’s been a good journey. Sometimes I can get irritated. But for the most part I love them all and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” she said.
The team is coached by Eric Knox. He’s a former Oregon State University basketball player. He also believes in the power of mentoring.
He founded a nonprofit called Holla Mentors.
It’s aimed at helping kids with brown or black skin in Portland. Part of the program involves two low cost basketball programs, which is where the girls met and played together.
“I get these kids. I get their story cause their story is my story. My dad was a drug addict. And so I naturally gravitate to those types of kids. And to see everything they’ve had to go through, not all of them but some of them. what they've had to go through to get to this point is absolutely beautiful and an amazing, remarkable story,” Knox said.
As the girls approached high school age, Knox challenged them and said they could get in line at one of the powerhouse schools, or come play for him at Benson and start the line.
Three years later it looks like they made the right choice.
“This has been our dream for a long time,” said Ciera Ellington.
During their time with Knox, he's assigned them mentors from his nonprofit and helped them grow.
Cierra Ellington lives with her sister. Her mom is in Oklahoma. Her dad lives in Los Angeles..
Knox has been a steady presence.
"He has been like a father to me, like a second dad. Like a parent. It's just been a lot. He's taught me about life, basketball, school,“ Ellington said.
Knox says basketball is the hook that interests the kids, but the game plan for that is a game plan for life.
“Persistence, confidence, a belief in one’s own ability, enjoying the fruits of one's labor, delayed gratification, reaping the benefits of their efforts; even when they had to work extremely hard and didn’t see the results and now are seeing those results,” he said.
Coach Knox says the team has already won the championship in his eyes by what they’ve overcome in life.
Just the same, they'd like to bring home a state title to Benson High.