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Benson girls are winners — and heroes — to Portland’s next generation: ‘They inspire so many young Black girls’

South Medford wins the OSAA 6A title, but Techsters' place in their community goes far beyond basketball games
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PORTLAND — Moments before accepting their second-place medals, as the emotional drain of falling short of a state championship started to wear, Benson senior guard Mauriana Hashemian-Orr was having none of it. 

In one final moment of veteran leadership, Hashemian-Orr was insistent on reminding her teammates, “Keep your heads up!” in the postgame ceremony. It wasn’t the time to sulk, feel sad or get down on themselves. 

Instead, it was an opportunity to cherish the moment of being one of the final two teams standing following Benson’s 48-38 defeat to South Medford in the Class 6A state title game Saturday night at the Chiles Center.

“From how we started the season to how we finished, I’m just proud of everybody,” Hashemian-Orr said. “We worked so hard for this. We did not give up, so I’m just so proud they didn’t give up. I wanted to make sure they keep their heads up, and we have a lot of underclassmen who have a future ahead of them.”

It went beyond basketball for this Benson team. Sure, the Techsters wanted that coveted state title. But they knew they represented more than what their on-court play showed.

It was about the Black community, being role models for the next generation and shutting down the narrative that teams from Portland, particularly the PIL, can’t compete against the state’s elite.

“It means a lot, especially for the Black and brown girls,” Hashemian-Orr said. “I know a lot of middle schoolers look up to us, as you can see the little kids coming up to us. It represents a lot. For me and the 2019 (state-title) group for Benson, we were just like those little girls (today), and we looked up to them. I know a lot of people were looking up to us.”

Benson South Medford 6A Oregon girls basketball final 2024 Taylor Balkom 28

Inspiring the next generation of Benson players is why coach Eric Knox decided to have the program’s middle school players visit the locker room before the game and at halftime.

“The bottom line is, they inspire so many young Black girls from North and Northeast Portland who aspire to be them,” Knox said. “We know what they mean, what these girls mean to them in an underrepresented community like Oregon, where there’s a small Black community.

“To have that kind of Black success represented on a stage like this to other young Black girls, who see them and aspire for that kind of greatness, is something that I’m gong to miss with losing these seniors.”

Also, witnessing a pro-Benson crowd at the Chiles Center and the undying support they received from friends, family and fans left unforgettable memories for the players and coaches.

“It shows how much people care about Benson girls basketball and how big it is,” Hashemian-Orr said. “I hope this group understands this and takes it, and they build off of that.

“It’s hard coming from the city. We kind of get, ‘Oh, are they going to be good once it comes to the playoffs? Are they going to be bad because they don’t really play against teams like Clackamas or Jesuit?’ We don’t have the Metro League or anything like that.”

Benson South Medford 6A Oregon girls basketball final 2024 Taylor Balkom 19

Whenever there were doubts, the Techsters always responded. A tough early-season schedule saw Benson start 6-4, including losses to Willamette, Clackamas and Jefferson — all of which reached this year’s state tournament.

Then the Techsters rattled off a 17-game win streak, including a revenge game over Jefferson on Feb. 6. Their season’s best victory came in an emotional 51-47 semifinal win over defending state champion Clackamas. But the mental toll led to a sluggish start Saturday, where Benson fell behind 22-10 by halftime while shooting 16.7 percent from the field (3 of 18).

“To be honest, I do feel like there was a lot of energy used in that game (against Clackamas),” Knox said. “I did sense we came out a little flat, but I think we found that little bit in the second half.”

Hashemian-Orr said there were “no excuses” this time.

“South Medford just came out of the gate and had so much energy,” Hashemian-Orr said. “I mean, shout-out to them. They’re a hard team and they deserved it.”

The Techsters now look to rebuild while losing five seniors to graduation: Hashemian-Orr, three-time PIL player of the year Mahogany Chandler-Roberts, guard Eboni Clay, guard Olivia Hinck and guard Trinity Alex.

“We aren’t Benson without these seniors,” Knox said. “Mahogany is a generational talent for a school like this. She’s been the best player in the city, and one of the best, if not the best, in the state.”

Benson South Medford 6A Oregon girls basketball final 2024 Taylor Balkom 35

Saturday marked the Techsters’ fourth appearance in a state championship game (1991, 2018, 2019 and 2024), with their one title coming in 2019.

“It hurts that we didn’t get to finish it and get the win,” Chandler-Roberts said. “We could’ve won. We could’ve won the entire thing, but life happens.” 

The Techsters finish with a 23-5 record, and now the challenge remains in how to sustain this level of success while growing the program to an elite level again.

“They wanted to win this, but there’s so much more at stake for these girls and what they represented,” Knox said. “Not only to their peers, but the younger generation, too. I feel like Benson girls basketball kick-started basketball again for girls here in the city. The 2019 team started it, and (this current group) continued it.”

Added Chandler-Roberts: “I’m very proud of us. We’ve been through so much as a team and together, and stuck through it. We made it this far. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but this isn’t the end of our journey.” 

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Photos by Taylor Balkom