The Wolves lead early and stay competitive late before the Lions pull away.
The Tualatin boys basketball team took its best shot.
Tualatin took the lead just five seconds into the game, boosted its lead to nine in the second quarter and was still within three at the start of the fourth.
But West Linn showed it could take a punch, picked itself up off the canvas in the second quarter, took control in the third and pulled away to win 89-78 in the fourth.
“Yeah, it feels good,” said West Linn senior guard Jackson Shelstad, who led all scorers with 31 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the field including one 3-pointer and a 10 of 10 day at the free throw line, along with five rebounds and five assists. “It was for the league championship and they’re a tough team. It’s always good to beat our rival and get a little revenge from last year.”
“We were just kind of playing lazy defense in the first half, but we picked it up and our energy picked up in the second half,” said Lion senior forward Mark Hamper, who added 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting from the field including three “threes” and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line, along with seven rebounds and two assists. “The defense started it all and we were just rolling on offense.”
“Any time you’re playing at your rival’s house and get a win it’s fun, especially when the student section’s chirping,” said WL senior guard Sam Leavitt, who finished with 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and a 2 of 2 day at the foul line, along with two rebounds and two assists.
The Lions also got 14 points from senior guard Adrian Mosley on 6 of 15 shooting from the field including one “three” and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line, along with five rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal. Senior guard Drake Gabel had five points on 1 of 3 shooting from the field and a 3 of 4 day at the line, along with four rebounds, one steal, one block and one assist. And junior guard Nick DiGuilio added seven points on 2 of 3 shooting from the field including two “threes” and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line, along with one steal and one assist.
With the win, the team’s 10th straight, West Linn improved to 9-0 in Three Rivers League play and 23-1 overall. Next up — weather permitting — the Lions close out league play in the Battle for the Bridge at Oregon City at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.
The Timberwolves were led by senior guard Josiah Lake’s 28 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field including four “threes” and an 8 of 9 day at the foul line, along with two assists and two rebounds. Tualatin junior post Jayden Steppe added 21 points on 10 of 19 shooting from the field including one “three” and a 0 for 2 day at the foul line, along with 11 rebounds, two assists and one block. And junior post Jayden Fortier had 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field and a 0 for 2 day at the line, along with seven rebounds, one assist and one block.
The Wolves started fast on Wednesday — beginning with Lake’s hoop just five seconds into the contest — pushed their early lead to 11-4 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Ryan Schleicher and eventually grabbed a 23-15 edge when Steppe took a pass from senior Richie Anderson and hit a jumpshot from the right baseline at the end of the first quarter.
Steppe went for nine points in the opening quarter, Lake and Schleicher added five each (with each hitting 3-pointers) and Fortier four. Shelstad kept the Lions close by making 3 of 5 shots — including two “threes” — for eight points while Leavitt hit twice.
Tualatin kept the pressure on in the second quarter, too, eventually stretching its lead to 26-17 when Steppe grabbed an offensive rebound and set up Schleicher for a “three” from the left corner with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first half.
But the Lions began to reel the Wolves back in after that, putting together a 12-2 run to take their first lead of the game at 29-28 when Hamper buried a “three” from the left wing with 3:09 left in the half. Hamper did most of the damage in that stretch, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring seven points while Mosley added a “three” of his own.
The Wolves re-took the lead at 33-31 when Lake took a Schleicher pass and hit a triple from the top of the key on the next possession, but West Linn responded with a 6-0 run — an inside hoop from Leavitt, a drive by Shelstad and a Shelstad putback — grabbed a 35-31 edge and never trailed again.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t more drama, however. The Wolves trailed just 37-35 at halftime and battled every second of the final two periods before the Lions finally pulled away.
Indeed, Tualatin trailed just 39-38 when Schleicher hit one of three foul shots early in the third quarter, and were still down just 53-50 after Steppe connected inside on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
But West Linn took over in the ensuing 6:27, outscoring Tualatin 25-15 to take its biggest lead of the game at 78-65 when Shelstad hit two free throws with 1:14 left in the contest.
Highlights from that run included 10 points from Shelstad, back-to-back “threes” by DiGuilio and another 3-pointer from Hamper to finally put the Wolves away.
“It’s always a fight when we play these dudes,” Shelstad said. “The game came down close to the end and it got chippy, but nothing personal. That was our third time playing them and we could see them again. We love playing against those dudes.”
“We just always stay ready. We always go hard at practice,” Hamper said. “That’s where it really starts is at practice. We go hard every time we hit the court so guys are ready to make shots and make plays when the games come. That’s where it comes from.”
“Playing them three times, each game is a battle,” Leavitt added. “We go into it with the mindset that is going to be a game … so we go into it with that mindset.”
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