A day after a tough quarterfinal, the Lions step up to rout the Cardinals in their semi.
The Lions had a little edge to them on Friday.
The West Linn boys basketball team, facing Lincoln in the Class 6A state semifinals at the Chiles Center on Friday, March 10, knew they hadn’t played their best in their tournament opener and knew that performance may have left some doubts about their abilities.
But the Lions erased all those doubts Friday, taking control early against the Cardinals and rolling to an 89-69 victory that guaranteed them a berth in the Saturday, March 11, state championship game.
“We had some fuel on the fire from yesterday so we came out really fired up,” said West Linn senior guard Jackson Shelstad, who was named Player of the Game after leading all scorers with 32 points on 14 of 24 shooting from the field including two 3-pointers and a 2 of 3 day at the free throw line, along with seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals. “We just don’t want anyone to second guess us.”
“I think we’ve really meshed together right now,” said Lion senior guard Drake Gabel, who hit two first-quarter “threes” and finished with seven points and two rebounds. “We’re really playing as a team and we really trust each other. I feel like we were just playing our brand of basketball, pushing the pace and we were shooting really well, too. … We definitely have a little chip on our shoulder.”
“Yesterday, I felt like Central Catholic set the pace and … we just kind of played at that pace the whole game,” said WL senior forward Mark Hamper, who added nine points on 2 of 5 shooting from the field including one “three” and a 4 of 4 day at the foul line, along with nine rebounds, four assists and one steal. “Today, we just wanted to emphasize playing at our own pace and Jackson did a great job of pushing the ball, playing fast like we normally do.”
In addition to their efforts, senior guard Adrian Mosley added 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field including two 3-pointers and a 2 of 4 day at the foul line, along with eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. Junior guard Nick DiGuilio added 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field including four “threes” and one rebound. Senior guard Sam Leavitt finished with nine points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
“With bigger teams, we do a really good job executing in the zone (defense),” Mosley said. “Just having the experience of playing teams like Duncanville and Sierra Canyon helped us prepare for this game.”
“I felt like we played with good energy,” DiGuilio added. “We played well, we played hard, we trusted each other and we had a good game.”
With the win, the team’s 15th straight (the state’s longest streak), top-ranked West Linn improved to 28-1 overall (the best in the state at any level) after winning the Three Rivers League. Next up, the Lions will face No. 3 Tualatin in the state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11. The Timberwolves earned their spot in the final by beating No. 2 Barlow 68-55 on Friday, winning for the fifth straight time and improving to 23-5 overall after finishing second in the Three Rivers League.
No. 4 Lincoln, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and ended its year at 24-5 overall after winning the Portland Interscholastic League.
The Cardinals were led by senior Moroni Seely-Roberts’ 25 points on 10 of 22 shooting from the field including two “threes” and a 3 of 4 day at the foul line, along with six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Junior Evan Heisler added 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the field, along with three rebounds and one block. And senior Malachi Seely-Roberts finished with 10 points on 3 of 13 shooting from the field including two 3-pointers and a 2 of 2 day at the line, along with four rebounds, five assists and one steal.
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After a brief back-and-forth at the start of the game, West Linn took control with a 24-13 run over the final 6 minutes, 24 seconds of the opening quarter to lead 27-18. The Lions knocked down five 3-pointers in the first 3:41 of the game, getting two each from Gabel and Mosley and another trey from Leavitt, while Mosley closed the period with a dunk set up by Shelstad in the final second .
Lincoln, meanwhile, tried to stay close behind five points from Moroni Seely-Roberts and a pair of “threes” by senior JahAllah Van.
The Cardinals held their own at the start of the second period, got six points from Moroni Seely-Roberts in the first 4:24 of the period and closed within 39-31 when Malachi Seely-Roberts took a pass from junior Isaac Margolis and buried a “three” from the left corner with 3:07 left in the half.
The Lions closed the half strong, though, getting a steal and breakaway hoop from Leavitt, a fast break basket by DiGuilio assisted by Shelstad, and a pull-up jumpshot by Shelstad in the final second that gave his team a 45-33 lead at the break.
West Linn kept its foot on the accelerator at the start of the third quarter, too, outscoring Lincoln 14-2 to open the half, grabbing a 59-35 lead and never allowing the Cardinals closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
The Lions scored on six of their first seven possessions of the third period, getting a “three” from DiGuilio, a big Mosley dunk set up by Leavitt, a 3-pointer by Hamper, a pair of pull-up jumpshots from Shelstad and two Hamper foul shots to help their lead crest at 24 points.
Lincoln edged back within 62-45 on a Van free throw with 2:23 in the third quarter and were still down 74-57 on a Margolis 3-pointer with 6:51 to go in the game.
But West Linn made sure they got no closer. Shelstad added six points down the stretch, while Leavitt and DiGuilio hit “threes” to send their team into the state finale.
“We’ve all got great confidence in each other and we’re going to hit each other anytime we’re open around the perimeter,” Hamper said. “We believe in each other to knock those shots down and they were falling today.”
“We wanted to come out right away and punch them in the mouth and get the game off to a good start,” Gabel said. “You get off to a good start and then it just keeps building up and each play just keeps getting better.”
“I think we had a good rhythm going from the start,” DiGuilio said. “We were able to keep that going throughout the game and I think that’s a good sign of what’s come.”
“We were shooting the lights out at the beginning of the first quarter, and we were being physical with them and using our athleticism to our advantage,” Shelstad said.
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