Varsity boy’s basketball trailblazing: against the odds


Dionne Agulto

Varsity Guard RJ Alexander scoring over two Barlow defenders.

Dionne Agulto, Staff Writer

   Like flowing water, the team passes the ball around; scanning the opposing defense before them as a scientist would study ants. While other teams merely treat basketball as a game, it is not so for the Gresham Gophers Varsity boys basketball team. 

   From their minds and hearts, basketball can be studied like science and be perfected with practice as a bodily art; much like dancing or even karate.

   However, the most important piece of basketball to the players is using the sport as a means to pursue happiness, forge brotherhood with teammates, and build lifelong careers around. 

All of which, arguably, is reflective of their team’s mentality and philosophy: led by their head coach Eric Lysio, and the players themselves.

   “It’s been a good experience with everyone. It’s way different then middle school, people respect me for who I am as a player and a person. It makes me feel like I’m supposed to be here, it gives me purpose, and I give credit to my teammates because they make me feel welcomed here, they’re like family to me, and without family I wouldn’t be the same person,” sophomore guard RJ Alexander said.

   Initially, the Gophers did have a rocky team record of 4 – 5 by their tenth game. The struggles ended up being a blessing in disguise however, as the early struggles allowed the team to correct and fill in their weaknesses early on and avoid excess stress come playoff time.

   “We could’ve finished and shot our free throws better, and as a team we could of dived on the floor more and be aggressive, but I still felt like since we were on the road, and in our third game, that we know we’ll get over this hump, but it’s just a matter of when,”  junior center Ulises Gutierrez said.

   Since then, the Gophers have made great leaps to improve their team play, and thus the team’s record; sporting a much more impressive team record of 9 – 5 when including the preseason against out-of-league teams, and 4 – 2 against teams in the 6A Mt Hood Conference League with a grand winning percentage of 0.666 overall: above the requirements for most playoff qualifications.

   It is possible that one could see exactly when the Gophers made a change to their team play, particularly after a heart-breaking loss to the Barlow Bruins with a score of 46 – 48 on Jan. 11, and then beating the David Douglas Scots by one with a score of 55 – 54 on Jan. 13.

   “We were neck and neck with David Douglas. We had a few relapses on defense but ended up holding our position with good defense and I think we won that game because we’ve been in situations like that: one – two point games like with Barlow, and we just learned from that and were able to adapt, and each time we’ve come into situations like that, we just learn more and build that knowledge up on how to win,” senior team manager Andrew Tran said.

   The two close games against Barlow and David Douglas taught them what they should change for more success and they went on to win their next four games against Reynolds, Sandy, Centennial, and Nelson: making for a 5 game winning-streak; all of which were victories of 20 points-plus and a true testament to the team’s growth this year.

   All the blood, sweat, and tears finally seems to have paid off.


Many tend to forget the dedication and sacrifice players need to makes for training in order to be as successful as the Gophers have been this year.

   “I think personally I’ve gotten more growth physically and mentally with my mindset and confidence. I mean, going up against good players you’ve got to be physically & mentally strong because the competition trains everyday, and I had to make sure to work on my game: both offensively and defensively with rebounds and shooting so that I could play multiple positions and be versatile,” Gutierrez said.

   Defense seems to be a key to winning for the Gophers this season. 

    “Coach always reminds us the right way to play defense, people will be upset about it. But if you can play defense you can stay on the court more, and that’s just the way it works around here,” Alexander said.

   Despite all the successes and time invested into the team’s athletic play, Lysio still makes shool the team’s top priority and he wants the students to be a model student athletes.  School always comes first before the games, otherwise, they won’t be able to play.

   “He always talks about how grades are important and without grades you won’t play, so it’s very important and could hurt you and the team if you’re not getting them. Even though I don’t need them anymore, I’ve had scheduled study halls before, and they’re very important and happen more often for the team before tests,” Alexander said.

   Lastly, with a playoff-worthy record of 9 – 5 and high expectations from fans,  the Gophers will have much to prove in their last four games to come.  The next five games for the Gophers are: Feb. 12 at Reynolds, Feb. 15 vs Sandy at home, Feb. 17 at Centennial, Feb. 22 vs. Nelson at home, and Feb. 24 vs. Central Catholic at home. Playoffs are set to start sometime after Feb. 24.