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Lions earn a pair of wins in trip to Central Oregon

The West Linn boys basketball team put together an impressive first road trip last weekend, toppling a pair of Central Oregon opponents on back to back days.

The Lions opened up at Redmond, which possesses a young but big team led by post Michael Leunen. West Linn got off to a strong start, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and succeeded in getting Leunen into early foul trouble.

'That was one of our big goals and we accomplished it,' coach Aaron Downs said.

Although the Lions led for virtually the entire game, Redmond was never far from striking distance. West Linn held a 28-20 lead at halftime but then the Panthers started to slowly chip away.

They trimmed West Linn's lead to five heading into the final quarter and were able to tie the game at 48 with two minutes to play.

With a large crowd backing them, the Panthers appeared to have the Lions back on their heels but West Linn responded by playing some of its best basketball of the night and made very few mistakes down the stretch.

'It was a very technically sound game. This was the first varsity experience a lot of our guys have seen,' Downs said.

The result was a 12-1 run to close out the game and seal the victory 60-49.

That run was fueled by solid execution on offense and some clutch free throw shooting.

'It was a total team effort. Everyone who played made a contribution and the scoring was totally balanced,' Downs said.

The play of West Linn's big men helped key the victory. Brenton Spickerman and Max Cathcart held their own against Redmond's posts. Spickerman led the team in scoring with 13 while Cathcart added 10 points and eight rebounds.

The next day, the Lions traveled to Prineville for a showdown with Crook County. Although the team is in 5A this year, it made last year's 4A state playoffs and is paced by its 6'9 post.

Once again, West Linn's posts had their hands full and responded admirably.

The Lions got off to another quick start, this time taking a 13-0 lead. But the early lead turned out to be a mixed blessing.

'We thought we were cruising a bit and that cost us,' Downs said.

Crook County responded with a stellar comeback, cutting the lead to just two points at the break. West Linn's defense kept it in the game the whole afternoon.

While Spickerman, Cathcart and Tommy Allen harassed Redmond's posts, guard Justin Monahan came up with seven steals in the contest to go along with 12 points.

'Justin got the MVP ball. He gave us a lot of energy. It was great to see him and Alex Tadros come back from injuries last year,' Downs said.

The momentum in the game shifted back and forth multiple times in what Downs described as one of the more difficult gyms in the state to play at. But the Lions were able to keep their cool for the second game in a row and managed to grind out a hard-fought 61-57 victory.

'It's tough to travel out to Central Oregon but the kids got into it and really played hard,' Downs said.

Catchart led West Linn with 13 points while Colby Martzall poured in 12.

Perhaps even more important than picking up the wins was the fact that the Lions bonded as a team during the two-day excursion. With only three seniors on the squad, team chemistry will be crucial to success this season.

'We need to just keep building our confidence. Early in the season we're still trying to decide who to play and when. It's a good group of guys,' Downs said.

West Linn's next game will be its home opener on Friday against McMinnville.