The Lions’ stellar season was led by a group of 10 seniors.
A capacity crowd estimated at almost 5,000 jammed the Chiles Center on Saturday night to see the best high school boys basketball team in the state of Oregon.
And the crowd got just that.
What it didn’t get, however, was a West Linn victory.
The Lions entered the Class 6A state championship game with the following credentials to burnish their reputation as Oregon’s best. West Linn was top-ranked in the state (and at one point, No. 1 in the country), champion of the Three Rivers League, champion of the Les Schwab Invitational (the first Oregon champion since 2012, a run that included a win over national No. 1 Duncanville, Texas), champion of the Capitol City Classic, winners of 15 straight games (tied for the longest 6A streak in the state this year), and winners of three straight games against its title-game opponent Tualatin. The Lions hadn’t lost to an Oregon opponent all year, had more wins and fewer losses than any team in Oregon with the exception of Class 1A champion Crane (31-1 overall), and had more wins and fewer losses than any big-school team in at least 10 years.
Unfortunately for the Lions — and due in great part to the stellar, physical, focused play of the Timberwolves in Saturday’s title contest — their status as the best team in Oregon didn’t result in a state championship.
And that’s a shame.
The 2023 West Linn roster featured 10 seniors and that group accomplished a lot during its final year on the hardwood. That group was led by guard Jackson Shelstad (the Three Rivers League Player of the Year and a first-team all-tournament selection), guard Adrian Mosley (a first-team all-TRL pick and second-team all-tourney), forward Mark Hamper (the TRL Defensive Player of the Year), guard Sam Leavitt and guard Drake Gabel, and also included guard Blake Oltmans, forward Jake Holmes, guard Joey Bell, guard Aidan Duea and forward Luke Young.
“We were senior-heavy. We had a lot of senior leaders,” said West Linn coach Robert Key, who was named Three Rivers League Coach of the Year in 2023. “Sam, being the quarterback that he is, and the seniors that started, they led by example. That’s why practices were fun. They were hard, very intense and everything in all the games was about leadership.”
“We were fortunate to have 10 seniors in this group, kids that have been around each other for a long time,” added West Linn assistant coach Keary Lee. “A lot of those kids have been playing together since third and fourth grade. There was a ton of senior leadership in practices and games and huddles, day in and day out and across sports, because a lot of those kids play other sports, too.”
So congratulations to Tualatin on its second straight Class 6A crown, the state’s first back-to-back big-school champion since West Linn ended its run of four straight titles in 2016.
But congratulations, too, to West Linn for one of the most amazing seasons in Oregon history.