Boys basketball: Tualatin earns state tournament bid with its 54-46 win over Lake Oswego
TUALATIN - Faith.
The Timberwolves had it - they never stopped believing.
They also had truckloads of intensity, undying determination, an amazing (and loud) support group and a little bit of luck.
The Tualatin High School boys basketball team mixed all of those elements together and came up with a thrilling state playoff victory and a berth to the Class 6A state tournament.
The Wolves earned their first state tourney bid since 2003 by scoring a 54-46 overtime victory over Lake Oswego in a state playoff second round game played in front of packed house Saturday at Tualatin High School.
'This is huge,' Tualatin senior Matt Losli said after the win. 'We never quit. We knew we could win.'
'This means the world to us,' Tualatin senior Mick Bies said. 'It was definitely intense. There were so many times out there we said we're not going to lose.'
With the win over Lake Oswego, Tualatin, the Pacific Conference champion, improved to 19-5 on the season. The Timberwolves will open the Class 6A state tournament today (Thursday) when they meet Grant in a quarterfinal game starting at 1:30 p.m. at McArthur Court in Eugene.
'We set some goals last summer,' Tualatin coach Rick Osborn said. 'To win league and to get to the state tournament were two of those goals. We really wanted to win this tonight, and the kids came through.'
But getting that win against a talented, persistent fifth-ranked Lake Oswego club, the No. 2 team from the Three Rivers League, looked to be anything but easy.
The Timberwolves held the lead over Lake Oswego, which finished its season with a final record of 21-5, for almost the entire contest, but Tualatin could never pull away from the Lakers.
The Wolves took a 34-28 lead into the fourth quarter of the Saturday's playoff contest. But Lake Oswego, getting a short-range jumper by senior Cody Randall and a pair of free throws by junior post Max Jacobsen, cut the lead to 34-32 with 3 minutes and 2 seconds remaining in regulation play.
Losli stopped the Laker run with a put-back basket, upping the margin to 36-32 with 2:47 left to play, but Lake Oswego came right back, getting a three-pointer by senior guard Elliot Babcock-Krenk to cut the Tualatin lead to one, at 36-35, with 2:34 remaining.
Then, following a Timberwolf turnover, Babcock-Krenk connected on a 16-foot jumper, giving the Lakers a 37-36 lead - their first lead of the game - with 1:57 showing on the clock.
After a missed Tualatin three-point attempt, Lake Oswego had the ball and a chance to add to its lead or at least eat time off the clock. But an unexpected occurrence changed everything.
The Wolves knocked the ball away from a Laker player, resulting in a scramble near midcourt for the loose ball. Jacobsen, diving, grabbed the ball and, while lying on the court, called timeout.
The problem was that the Laker didn't have any timeouts left to call. That resulted in a technical foul, giving Tualatin, still trailing by one, a pair of foul shots and the ball.
'Who knows how that happened,' Losli said. 'I'm just glad it worked out for us.'
Timberwolf junior Brandon Troxel, taking the pressure-packed free throws following the technical foul, missed the first attempt, but he was true with his second shot, tying the game at 37-37 with 24.9 seconds left to play.
'Brandon made a big free throw for us, and he made the tougher one,' Osborn said. 'I knew he'd hit at least one.'
Tualatin worked to get the final shot of regulation play, but junior Eric Kjemperud's three-point attempt bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending the game to overtime.
Lake Oswego took a quick 39-37 lead in overtime on a pair of free throws by Randall, but that would be the last Laker lead of the contest.
Tualatin junior point guard Alex Murray answered with a pair of free throws of his own to tie the game with 3:30 remaining in the extra session. Murray then came up with a steal and got the ball to Losli, who was fouled with 3:11 left to play.
Losli went 2-for-2 from the stripe to give the Wolves a 41-39 lead. Tualatin junior Anthony Freeman, Jr., was fouled on the team's next possession. He too was perfect with his two foul shots making the score 43-39 with 2:44 remaining.
That was the start of a big overtime performance for Freeman, the Wolves' a 6-foot-6 post. Following a layup by Jacobsen, Freeman answered back by converting a three-point play. Then, after he grabbed a defensive rebound, he was fouled and again he went 2-for-2 from the foul line to give the Wolves a 49-41 lead with 1:16 to play in overtime.
'I'm glad A.J. was able to play so well in overtime,' Osborn said. 'That was big.'
Troxel, Losli and Kjemperud all sank free throws for Tualatin (which went 15-for-19 as team from the line in overtime) in the final minute of play to wrap up the 54-46 win and start a Timberwolf victory celebration.
'I just couldn't stop smiling,' Bies said, still with a smile on his face. 'Those last two minutes of overtime were the longest two minutes of my life. I just kept looking up at the clock.'
'It was a total team win,' Losli said. 'The fans, parents, everyone has been rallying behind us.'
'That really was a team win,' Osborn echoed. 'Alex was huge for us tonight. Matt played a great game. He and Jordan (Highland) and Taylor (Hart) (who all played for the Tualatin football team that reached the Class 6A state title game) know what it takes. And the scout team worked their tails off in practice to get us ready.'
Tualatin got off to a red-hot start in Saturday's playoff game. Bies hit a pair of three-pointers and Murray added a basket from beyond the arc in the first quarter, which ended with the Wolves holding a 13-5 lead. Losli scored six points in the second quarter, helping the Wolves grab a 24-19 halftime lead.
Losli was Tualatin's leading scorer in the win with 16 points. He shot at a 5-for-9 clip from the field while going a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. He also had five rebounds.
Bies scored 10 points, Troxel had nine points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Freeman scored eight points in the game, with seven of those points coming in overtime.
For the game, Tualatin made 15 of 31 shots from the field and 20 of 27 free throws.
Jacobsen led Lake Oswego with 13 points.