The Lions’ win over Sierra Canyon in the LSI may reverberate into the future.
There’s no better way to characterize last night’s 86-69 victory by the West Linn boys basketball team over nationally ranked Sierra Canyon in the semifinals of the 2022 Les Schwab Invitational at Liberty High School.
It was one of those games that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It was a game that made national news. It was a game that reminded me again of why I do what I do, and why I started Miles Vance Sports Journal back in August. By the way, you should subscribe here — https://bit.ly/3dyi4Bm
Most importantly, it was a game that showcased the amazing ability of West Linn stars Jackson Shelstad and Adrian Mosley, and further, proved the toughness, talent and togetherness of the entire West Linn team.
Regarding Shelstad and Mosley’s efforts, they were nothing short of incredible. Shelstad, a 6-foot senior point guard who’s committed to Oregon, led all scorers with 38 points on 11 of 16 shooting from the field and a 16 of 18 day at the free throw line, along with seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Mosley, a 6-2 senior guard who has yet to make his college decision, scored 28 points on 12 of 26 shooting from the field and a 4 of 7 day at the free throw line, along with a game-high 11 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
But their contributions were much, much more than that. Here’s why.
Facing a team dotted with the sons of LeBron James, Penny Hardaway and Scottie Pippen, other nationally ranked players and a ton of height — the Trailblazers featured three 6-6 players, two at 6-8, one at 6-9 and one at 7-0 — Shelstad and Mosley refused to back down. Not even once.
Shelstad was easily the fastest player on the court, and despite constant double teams and Sierra Canyon’s full-court pressure, he was nearly flawless in his ball-handling, committing just two turnovers all night and attacking the basket with abandon the entire game.
Mosley was no less impressive, doing most of his work from mid-range and close to the basket, consistently attacking players much taller than him — usually more than one at a time — and using his ball handling, incredible body control and inventiveness to create shots when it appeared there were none — and make them.
With Shelstad and Mosley at the forefront, the rest of the Lions began to figure out how to deal with the Blazers’ size and quickness. Senior Mark Hamper used his toughness to bolster the Lion’s defense down low and stepped up to grab seven rebounds despite playing much of the game in foul trouble.
Senior Drake Gabel came through with six points and three rebounds, playing almost mistake-free basketball and using his strength and toughness to help defend the taller Trailblazers. And senior Sam Leavitt — he’s bound for Michigan State in football after quarterbacking West Linn to the Class 6A state title — came through with key passes, rebounds and steals that paved the way to the Lions’ victory.
Down the stretch there were some key moments that told the story of West Linn’s huge “W.” Beginning with the Lions’ rally near the end of the first half — they erased a 12-point deficit and closed within 40-39 at the break — the crowd of 3,500 broke into raucous chants of “defense,” “defense,” a trend that only intensified in frequency and volume as the Lions began to take over in the second half.
Here’s a couple other markers that showed the momentum changing toward the Lions and away from the nationally regarded Trailblazers.
With 4 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third quarter and the Lions leading 49-47 with Mosley at the foul line, 6-8 Sierra Canyon forward Ashton Hardaway — the son of former Orlando Magic star Penny Hardaway — clapped his hands together, turned his head to the side and yelled “f..k.”
Then, with six minutes remaining in the contest and the Lions ahead 61-55, Sierra star Isaiah Elohim attacked the basket, got called for traveling, then jumped up and down and pumped his fists in frustration.
Finally, after supporting West Linn with its chants of “defense” throughout the second half, the LSI crowd turned its sights on Sierra Canyon with 1:15 to play. There, with West Linn leading 81-65 after two Hamper free throws, the crowd let loose on the Blazers with a loud — and likely painful to Sierra Canyon — chant of “overrated,” “overrated.”
It looks to me like West Linn will be having this effect on a lot of their foes this year.