Despite a slow start, injuries and late additions, West Linn hammers Jaguars.
Let’s be honest — the West Linn boys basketball team is a supercar.
At this point of the 2022-23 season — the Lions played their season opener at Century on Tuesday, Dec. 6 — West Linn is a supercar in need of a tuneup and a few replacement parts.
But even at that, when the Lions step on the accelerator, they can go really, really fast. Century found that out the hard way on Tuesday, with West Linn shaking off a slow start to beat the Jaguars 78-35 at Century High School.
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“It was the first game of the season, (and) kind of as expected, we came at a little slow,” said Oregon-bound senior guard Jackson Shelstad, who led all scorers with 34 points on 14 of 21 shooting from the field, with two three-pointers and a 4 of 4 day at the free throw line, along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. “But we really picked it up in the second half and started playing West Linn basketball. Fast, trapping and getting steals.”
“We started off a little slow, but in the second half, we picked it up,” said Lions senior guard Drake Gabel, who added nine points on 4 of 4 shooting from the field and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line, along with three steals, two assists and two rebounds. “We got a lot of steals and played defense. We pushed the ball on the fast break and just played fast, played our away.”
“Everything’s going to slowly come together, and I feel like we’ll play together better as we get deeper into the season,” added WL senior guard Adrian Mosley, who finished with 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and a 4 of 6 day at the line, along with five rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal. “And we’ve still got a lot of players out.”
With the win, West Linn’s first of the season, the top-ranked Lions improved to 1-0 in non-league play. Unranked Century, meanwhile, lost for the third straight time and fell to 0-3 in non-league play. Next up, West Linn will play at West Salem at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, were led by 14 points from sophomore guard Jessley Bukeyeneza (on 6 of 12 shooting from the field with two “threes”) and 11 more from junior guard Jordan Johnson (on 4 of 11 shooting with three 3-pointers).
Regarding that slow start, it was only slow if you know how good West Linn ought to be this year. Indeed, Century took its only lead of the game at 3-2 when Johnson buried a “three” from the right wing with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
But the Lions outscored the Jaguars 12-4 in the final 4:47 of the period to lead 14-7, with Mosley cashing in six points and senior guard Sam Leavitt capping the quarter when he scored on a cut assisted by senior forward Jake Holmes with 7 seconds to go.
West Linn began to heat up in the second quarter, though, and Century had no answer. In that period, the Lions hit 10 of their first 13 shots, with Shelstad pouring in 12 points and Gabel another six,with Gabel hitting three straight shots to give his team a 38-19 edge at halftime.
Already in total control, the Lions ended the conversation with a 26-12 advantage in the third quarter that boosted their lead to 64-31 entering the fourth. Shelstad was absolutely devastating in that frame, hitting 6 of 7 shots from the field, including one “three” and two foul shots for 15 points, along with two steals and two rebounds.
“We are still missing some key players —a lot of us haven’t been playing together a lot like some other teams — so we’re still working into that, but we’re slowly getting better every day,” Shelstad said, referencing his team’s injuries and players who began the winter season late due to their play on the Lions’ state championship football team.
West Linn then ended the night with a 14-4 edge in the fourth quarter led by junior guard Max Juhala’s seven points.
“I think guys are just learning how to play with each other, because the football guys came out late and we’ve had some injuries so we’re working on chemistry and we’re figuring out how to play with each other,” Gabel said.
“We’ve still got a lot of players out, but we’re a quick team and all of us are athletic one through five,” Mosley added. “So I think us getting out and running will help us beat a lot of teams.”
Juhala and Leavitt added nine points each in the win for the Lions, who also forced 18 turnovers in the contest.
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