They'll go back to work tomorrow afternoon, the memory of what happened last night still fresh in their minds. They'll work to get better, because there are bigger games ahead...

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They’ll go back to work tomorrow afternoon, the memory of what happened last night still fresh in their minds. They’ll work to get better, because there are bigger games ahead, and state championships aren’t won in December.


That the O’Dea basketball team lost its cross-border clash to Jefferson of Portland 69-56 at Brougham Pavilion last night might mean little in the grand scheme of things if it serves the purpose Conor Mullen described.


“They did a good job of showing our weaknesses,” said Mullen, outside a quiet O’Dea locker room. “Now we can work on improving those and use this as a learning experience.”


The Irish (5-1) don’t have much time, though. Tuesday, they host Seattle Prep (4-0) and Martell Webster at 7:30 p.m. in an important Metro League Mountain Division game.


“We’ve just got to get mentally prepared before the game starts,” said Mullen, who tallied team highs in points (17), rebounds (six) and assists (six), but made only 4 of 13 field-goal attempts.


Jefferson took the floor for its season debut looking more like a college team with four players 6 feet 7 or taller. But O’Dea, the defending Class 3A state champion, held its own early, leading by as many as seven points in the first quarter and hanging on through a seesaw first half that saw 12 lead changes.


But after halftime, it was all Jefferson.


The Democrats, leading 33-31, opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run, and the fourth with a 10-2 spurt, showing why they’re considered one of the favorites to win Oregon’s 4A state crown.


“We just thought that we could come out and beat them if we played hard and played our style of basketball,” said senior Mac Hopson, who led Jefferson with 17 points, four assists and three steals.


O’Dea saw its nine-game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since Feb. 28.


Part of Jefferson’s winning formula also included containing O’Dea point guard Mitch Johnson. The Stanford-bound senior finished with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and four assists. He went without a field goal in the second half.


“Our plan was to keep him in front,” Jefferson assistant coach Patrick Strickland said of Johnson. “We didn’t think he could beat any of our guys off the dribble — just get a hand on his face, up on his shot and kind of help in the coverage. And I think we did a great job.”


Matt Peterson: 206-515-5536 or mpeterson@seattletimes.com