by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview senior point guard David Coffey wrestles away a defensive board from Tigards Bryan Berg.

For 32 minutes a contest, every game no matter the foe, the Westview boys’ basketball team’s competitive fire never extinguished.

Whether the Wildcats were big underdogs against West Linn in the preseason, or undermanned against Sunset in the Metro League, Westview took on every game with a combative temperament. With sheer will and the desire to scrap the Wildcats stayed in games that, on paper, they seemingly had little chance in.

All season, week after week, Westview’s distinctive contending nature and knack for sticking out tough circumstances and challenging talented teams showed through. They were an overachieving bunch, the type that squeezed the most out of its ability and, maximized its potential by playing hard every possession, every play, no matter the caliber of opponent.

Against Tigard in the first round of the 6A playoffs on Wednesday March 5, Westview continued to reveal its true colors, running with the talented Tigers for a half despite turning the ball over and battling foul trouble. However, a manageable 39-29 halftime deficit quickly ballooned into the teens as key players such as Alex Carrick, Ben Larsen and David Coffey became saddled with foul trouble.

Tigard’s state tournament-level natural abilities and skills ultimately took over in the fourth quarter, terminating Westview’s season, 59-39. But, it wasn’t due to a lack of heart on the Wildcats’ part. Or hustle. Or hard work.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior forward Bryce Johnson puts up a jumper against Tigard. Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring and grabbed four rebounds

“We came out thinking ‘upset’, believing we could beat anybody on any night,” said Coffey. “We almost had West Linn, Jesuit, Sunset. We knew we could come out and win. That’s how we played, to win. It didn’t always turn out, but it’s great to come out and work your hardest. It’s something you can look back on with good memories.”

“There was a lot of fight on this team,” said junior forward Bryce Johnson. “That’s just the personality of this team. We knew we didn’t have that one go-to player, but this team fought the entire season and that just shows our character.”

“Us being together and us being like brothers, we all wanted to work hard,” said senior shooting guard Ben Larsen. “For most of us, it was our last time playing basketball for our school so we wanted to bring it. For the most part, we all had the same ability. Nobody was extremely better than anybody else, so we brought it every day in practice.”

Westview took a 9-8 lead in the first after a three from Coffey. However, Tigard closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run getting six points from Bryan Berg who came out aggressive and looking to attack early. Berg’s crossover and pull-up jumper in the key gave the Tigers a 17-9 lead at the end of one. Elijah Simon and Joel Johnson tacked on hoops as well, complementing Berg’s 10 first-quarter points and three steals.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview sophomore point guard Abhishek Venkatesh tries to drive by Tigards Bryan Berg in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats playoff loss.

Carrick finished a left-to-right crossover to start the second quarter to pull within 17-11. Johnson completed a lay-up from close range and Larsen scored four points near the end of the quarter to bring Westview within 30-20 at halftime.

For all its struggles holding onto the basketball and maintaing possession, the Wildcats stayed competitive with toughness on the defensive boards and timely buckets when the game teetered toward Tigard.

“I thought we gave it our all for effort,” said Johnson.

“It wasn’t our best game, but we came out and competed,” said Coffey.

Tigard was well-aware of Westview’s penchant for setting both on-ball and off-ball screens, so the Tigers made sure they stayed skinny, but strong sifting through the various picks and beating the Wildcats to their favorite spots on the floor.

“We knew we needed to knock down shots and we didn’t do that as well today,” said Larsen. “When you’re not knocking down shots, you can’t win the game. But, I thought we competed really hard. Tigard played great, played great defense. They knew what their gameplan was and executed it very well. They deserved that win.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior forward Alex Carrick scored seven points in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats playoff loss to Tigard last Wednesday.

Westview got as close as 36-27 with 3:25 left on a Jack England three from the right wing. But, Berg made one of two free throws. Then, Simon came off a down pick, squared up at the top of the key and buried it while getting hacked by Carrick. Simon finished off the four-point play by making the free throw to put Tigard up 40-29 at the end of the third.

True to form, Westview refused to budge from its competitive ways in the fourth. Carrick swished a one-handed floater and backed the hoops with a high-difficulty righty reverse along the baseline that brought the Wildcats within 47-35. Carrick and Johnson each had eight points.

Tigard plainly continued to pour it on in the fourth, getting three buckets from A.J. Hotchkins, who finished with 14 points. And, with stringent officiating plaguing the Wildcats all night, Coffey, Larsen, Carrick and senior wing Mitch Kekel each fouled out in the fourth when the game’s outcome was still in doubt.

However, that didn’t quell Westview’s postgame pride.

“Even the guys who didn’t get as much time as the starters, they still competed every single second,” said Larsen. “They worked their butts off every single day in practice and took advantage of the opportunities.”

Though Westview finished the year just above .500 at 13-12, Larsen believed the Wildcats proved team camaraderie and playing for the name on the front of the jersey was worth more than individual greatness.

“We had great team chemistry,” said Larsen. “When we used that and played together as a team we could play with anybody. We came up short quite a few times. But, we had close games with Jesuit, Southridge, Sunset and even West Linn who’s the best team in the state. I’m just extremely proud of everyone on this team and this season because we worked together and fought for this.”

“The number of wins and losses didn’t represent the group of guys we had here,” added Johnson. “This is one of my favorite teams I’ve been on. There was no off the court trouble and the team chemistry was just there. Most of the seniors were on the same team since sixth grade, and it came out on the court. I just love these guys and I’m going to miss them a lot.”

“This has been the best basketball season of my life,” added Coffey. “We didn’t have the best talent, but we came together and made stuff happen. The coaches, the players were just great. It was amazing, I loved it.”

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