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25 top moments in 25 years of the Les Schwab Invitational

Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Payton Pritchard among the many future NBA players who have produced memorable highlights at the elite holiday basketball tournament

By Bob Lundeberg 

The Les Schwab Invitational produced a number of magical moments over its first 25 years of existence

The 2022 edition, which will run Dec. 26-30 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, is all but certain to add to the prestigious tournament’s legacy. Defending 6A state champion Tualatin and 2023 title favorite West Linn are among the Oregon teams that will battle with out-of-state powers Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), Brophy College Prep (Phoenix), Duncanville (Texas) and Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California).

Get ready for LSI 2022

Below is a list of 25 of the best moments and events in LSI history. 

Photo by Kent Frasure: In one of the best games in tournament history, Michael Porter Jr. and Nathan Hale outlasted Marvin Bagley and Sierra Canyon for the 2016 title.

25. The LSI’s return

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, the LSI returned last winter with Missouri’s Link Academy cruising to the title with an average margin of victory of 29.5 points. Tualatin gave Link a solid test in the final, but the star-studded Lions were too much for a field that was thinned in the lead-up to the tournament because of the Omicron outbreak. Knock on wood, but everything feels much more normal this December as four national brands head to Oregon. 

24. Oak Hill makes waves

Oak Hill was the first out-of-state power to appear in the LSI, winning the 1997 title. The team started five Division I players, including future Xavier star Lloyd Price. There was no shot clock in the tournament’s early days, but any stall tactics failed to work as Oak Hill went a perfect 4-0. 

23. LSI adds dunk contest

The LSI added a slam dunk contest for the 2008 tournament, and the event was an immediate success. Dominguez’s Robert Mandingo won the contest with a spectacular alley-oop dunk off the balcony railing. The dunk still holds up 14 years later. 

22. Rainier Beach wins one for the Northwest

Rainer Beach and Chicago’s Whitney Young played one of the best semifinals in LSI history at the 2013 tournament. Future Washington star David Crisp netted 33 points in an 89-82 Beach victory. Jahlil Okafor had 28 points and 13 rebounds for Whitney Young, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Seattle power. The Vikings went on to defeat Bishop Gorman in the final. 

21. Keldon Johnson’s historic performance

Oak Hill won its seventh and most recent LSI title in 2017, defeating Mater Dei in the final. Keldon Johnson was the star of the tournament with several strong performances during the team’s four games. Johnson, who now plays for the San Antonio Spurs, is the only player to win the slam dunk contest and tournament MVP honors. 

20. Westview stuns Fairfax

Ranked 13th in the country entering the 2004 LSI, Fairfax was expected to cruise to the final. That did not happen. In a first-round stunner, Westview buried 12 three-pointers in a 77-71 victory over Fairfax. Gabe Palone made five of those threes and led the Wildcats with 27 points. 

19. Ndudi Ebi becomes a star

Playing for Houston’s Westbury Christian, Ndudi Ebi averaged 27 points and 12 rebounds en route to MVP honors at the 2002 LSI. His biggest moment came in the semifinals when he flew in and pinned a dunk attempt by Jefferson’s Thomas Gardner against the backboard. Westbury Christian won that game before falling to Bishop O’Connell in the final. 

18. Deloney breaks LSI scoring record

The LSI single-game scoring record belongs to Aaron Deloney, who poured in 47 points in a consolation game loss to Skyview during the 2018 tournament. Deloney, last season’s America East Sixth Man of the Year for Vermont, led Grant to the 2018 state title and is one of the most prolific scorers in Oregon history. 

17. Crusaders nearly take down No. 1

In a national broadcast on ESPNU, Jesuit pushed national No. 1 Oak Hill to the brink in the 2011 LSI final before ultimately succumbing, 57-50. It was one of the closest results for Oak Hill during a perfect 44-0 season. Future Georgetown star D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the way for Oak Hill with 23 points in the championship game. 

16. A milestone win

Legendary Oak Hill coach Steve Smith earned his 1,000th victory at the 2015 LSI with a blowout semifinal win over West Linn. Smith, who retired in July, finished with 1,231 wins during his 37-year career. There was an on-court celebration following his 1,000th victory that featured a video tribute from former players, including Carmelo Anthony. 

15. Tweety Carter goes on a heater

Future Baylor star Tweety Carter scored 40 points in his LSI debut and netted 41 more the next night against Kyle Singler-led South Medford. Carter demonstrated some of the deepest shooting range in the history of the tournament. With Carter tearing up the court, Louisiana’s Reserve Christian won the 2005 tournament title. 

14. High-flying Crenshaw

One of the most entertaining teams to ever participate in the LSI was Los Angeles’ Crenshaw in 1998. The Cougars ran up and down the court and averaged 95 points per game. Head coach Willie West used a platoon substitution system as his team eventually wore down the competition en route to the championship.

13. Gordon dazzles, but Jesuit scores a big upset

Current Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon was a dunking machine for Archbishop Mitty at the 2012 LSI, but the Monarchs were stunned by Jesuit, 76-72, in the quarterfinals. The Crusaders were led by Khyan Raydner’s 32 points. Gordon averaged 30 points and 16 rebounds during his LSI run. 

12. Pritchard hits a game-winner

In the third-place game at the 2013 LSI, a sophomore Payton Pritchard knocked down a last-second jumper to defeat pre-tournament favorite Whitney Young, 68-67. Pritchard had 13 points and seven assists while Jahlil Okafor dominated with 33 points and 15 rebounds. It was one of many big moments in Pritchard’s decorated West Linn career. 

11. Love’s LSI debut

In an all-Oregon final, future Oregon State players Josh and Seth Tarver led Jesuit to a title game romp over Lake Oswego and star freshman Kevin Love. The Crusaders outscored Lake Oswego 54-26 over the last three quarters, but Love was still voted MVP of the 2003 tournament. For the next three years, Love was a huge draw that people either loved to root for or against.

10. Jesuit sends Mater Dei spiraling

Jesuit has pulled off multiple upsets at the LSI, including a 78-74 second-round victory over Southern California power Mater Dei in 2001. Joe Kaempf, D.J. Jackson, Scott Doughtery and Zach Tarver all scored in double figures for the Crusaders. Mater Dei went on to lose its next two games to Little Rock and Thurston as Oak Hill won the title.

9. Love breaks Jesuit’s heart

In a rematch of the 2005 state title game, Lake Oswego avenged its loss from months earlier with a dramatic LSI quarterfinal victory over Jesuit. Kevin Love hit a layup as time expired to give the Lakers a 52-51 win. The packed house had a pro-Jesuit lean, and the wild finish sent many home unhappy. 

8. The Tyson Chandler show

Tyson Chandler was one of the biggest recruits in the country in 2000, and the star center lived up to the hype at the LSI. Chandler had a tournament-record 26 blocks and several highlight dunks as Dominguez earned the LSI title. Chandler, who went straight to the NBA, won MVP honors. 

7. Jefferson pushes Durant, Oak Hill

Jefferson nearly pulled off one of the tournament’s biggest surprises in 2004 against an Oak Hill team led by Kevin Durant. The Democrats held an eight-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but No. 3 Oak Hill outscored Jefferson 28-15 in the final period to seal the semifinal win. Ty Lawson led Oak Hill, which routed Hillsboro in the championship game the following night, with 16 points against a tenacious Jefferson team.

6. Bishop O’Connell wins at the buzzer

The 2002 LSI final came down to a true buzzer-beater. Bishop O’Connell’s Dave Neal hit a shot with no time on the clock to defeat Westbury Christian, 59-57. It’s the only time the LSI title has been decided by a buzzer-beater.

5. No. 1 Rice goes down

The biggest upset in tournament history belongs to Jesuit, which knocked off national No. 1 Rice, 75-62, in a second-round game in 1999. Brian Michaelson, who is now an assistant coach at Gonzaga, led the Crusaders with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Jesuit went on to upset No. 9 Southern Lab in the semifinals before falling to Jefferson in the title game. 

“Brian Michaelson was just unbelievable that tournament; I was a kid back then and he was my hero,” LSI tournament director Reggie Walker said. “That was the first year that a national heavy-hitter went down to the hands of an Oregon team.” 

4. Jefferson’s perfect season

The 1999 championship game was one for the ages between Oregon powers Jesuit and Jefferson. The Crusaders scored two big upsets on their way to the final while Jefferson went 3-0 against in-state competition. A tight game throughout, the Democrats survived 76-75 as Jesuit missed a late free throw. Jefferson went on to win the state title and finish 28-0. 

“That year really helped the tournament become what it became,” Walker said. 

3. Mathis, Pritchard upend Wheeler

Payton Pritchard defeated future Boston Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown in a semifinal stunner at the 2014 LSI. Anthony Mathis had 38 points for West Linn and Pritchard added 11 with nine assists in a 70-62 victory over Wheeler. The Lions then faced Montverde Academy, which survived a semifinal upset scare of its own against Central Catholic, in the championship game. West Linn hung tough against the Florida power, but Ben Simmons and company prevailed by double figures. 

2. A Love vs. Singler rematch

Kevin Love’s Lake Oswego defeated Kyle Singler’s South Medford in the 2006 state championship game, and the two rivals faced off later that year in an LSI semifinal. Michael Harthun (24 points) and Singler (16) led the way for the Panthers in a wire-to-wire victory. The Panthers went on to play a close contest with Oak Hill in the final and won the 2007 state championship against the Lakers. 

“2006 was just a huge year for the tournament,” Walker said. “Singler, Brandon Jennings from Oak Hill, and Love. … It can’t be emphasized enough how good Kevin Love was.” 

1. The Bagley vs. Porter Jr. showdown

Maybe the best game in LSI history was the 2016 final between Seattle upstart Nathan Hale and Sierra Canyon. Michael Porter Jr. scored a game-high 27 points in a 67-65 comeback victory for Brandon Roy-led Nathan Hale. Marvin Bagley was dominant all tournament for Sierra Canyon and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the final. At the time, Porter Jr. was rated the No. 1 senior in the country while Bagley was the top-ranked junior. 

“Nathan Hale won two league games the year before, and then (Porter Jr.’s) dad gets a job at Washington and they instantly become one of the best teams in the country,” Walker said. “We didn’t add them to the tournament until late June or early July when usually our field is set sometimes a whole year in advance for the national teams. We had to pull a lot of strings, and it led to arguably one of the best games in the history of the tournament.”

Marvin Bagley Michael Porter Jr. 2016 LSI final photo Kent Frasure 2

More on the LSI: 

How the Les Schwab Invitational rose to national elite holiday basketball tournament prominence

Here is the 2022 LSI bracket

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Top prospects: Bronny James, Ron Holland, Isaiah Elohim, Jackson Shelstad headline loaded field

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