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A man for all seasons

Westview's Phil Belding rides his success in baseball and basketball to Male Athlete of the Year honors
by: Miles Vance BELDING TIMES THREE — Westview’s Phil Belding was named Valley Times Male Athlete of the Year after leading his team to a state baseball championship and to a runner-up finish in basketball.

ROCK CREEK - Day by day, game by game, and season by season, things just kept getting better for Westview's Phil Belding.

Belding, a three-sport athlete at Westview High School, started his senior year on a downer, losing his job as starting quarterback on the Wildcats football team.

But things got better - way, way better - for Belding after that.

Belding stepped into the starting lineup for the Westview basketball team and played a prominent role as the Wildcats reached the Class 6A state championship game for the second year in a row.

Then, in the spring, Belding got it all. Playing for the top-ranked and heavily favored Westview baseball team, Belding helped lift the Wildcats to a Metro League co-championship, and later, to the school's first-ever state baseball championship.

In honor of his achievements, Belding has been selected as the Valley Times' Male Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 school year. Belding will share the award, given annually to the top graduating senior from the Beaverton Valley Times' coverage area, with Aloha's James Euscher. The profile on Euscher, a star in football, basketball and track, will appear in next week's edition of the Valley Times.

That said, it wasn't all easy for Belding in his senior season, and nowhere was it tougher than in football. As a junior, Belding took his team to a fourth-place finish in league play, led the Wildcats into the second round of the state playoffs, and won second-team all-Metro honors in the process.

But Belding put baseball at the top of his very busy to-do list during the summer following his junior year, helping the Robinson Construction team to a 39-1-1 record and an OIBA championship, and also working out with the Wildcat football team and Westview summer basketball team whenever he could.

When fall season rolled around, however, Belding saw teammate CJ Garcia win the starting quarterback job and found himself relegated to part-time duty as a slotback, safety and punter.

'I did baseball in the summer because I knew that was what I wanted to do in college,' said Belding, who will play next year at Western Nevada College. 'But I was frustrated (at losing the quarterback job). I was upset about it and I had a bad attitude for a couple of days. After that, though, I did whatever they would let me do, and it got better.'

Into the Fire

As challenging as his fall season had been, Belding's senior basketball season turned his year around in a hurry.

While the Wildcats had just two starters back from their 2010 state runner-up team, they knew they had a chance to be very good again, and Belding was right in the middle of those plans. Starting at wing, the 6-foot-1, 160-pound Belding gave his team deadly outside shooting, a dangerous defender and a surprisingly effective rebounder.

'We went into the season knowing we lost a lot of guys, but with me Dyrall (Goods) and Malcolm (Jackson) coming in, we knew we had the guys and we knew we had the skill,' Belding said.

'He came in right away from football with that silky shot,' said Westview basketball coach Pat Coons. 'He's a bit of a slasher, in part because he was so good at shooting the ball. If you leave Phil open, he'll hit the shot. If you come at him, he'll blow by you.'

While the Wildcats struggled at times with their revamped lineup, they gave Jesuit its best game of the Metro League season, escaped a lackluster performance against Century in round one of the playoffs, then accelerated back to the eight-team tournament at the Rose Garden and all the way to another state-title game appearance.

'We came out slow at the start of the year, like we expected to win,' Belding said. 'But going into the tournament, especially coming off the Century game where we barely won, we knew we were going to be better. We decided to start killing teams, to show each one how good we were.'

The Wildcats showed Jesuit in the state title game too, racing out to a 25-19 halftime lead and still leading 35-29 midway through the third quarter before the Crusaders pulled away with a 13-0 run to win 60-46.

'Their girls team had already won and we didn't want them to sweep. No one wanted to see that,' Belding said. 'We had a big chip on our shoulder from the year before, but they played great.'

Despite that title-game loss, Belding relished his time playing at the Rose Garden, and against the state's best teams.

'It was awesome to play in those games,' he said, 'just being able to make it back to the state championship a second year in a row when no one thought we could. But we knew we could get there.'

'He always made such a big difference every time he stepped on the court,' Coons added.

Diamond on the Diamond

As great as all that had been, it positively paled in comparison to Belding's spring campaign.

Belding was the starting center fielder and No. 3 starter for the Wildcats' talented baseball team. Ranked No. 1 in the Class 6A coaches poll and also in the OSAA power rankings, Westview started its year at just 3-2, but then took off.

The Wildcats won their final six non-league games, then swept past Aloha, Jesuit and Beaverton at the start of the Metro season to extend their winning streak to 15. Still, Belding and the Cats knew there would be challenges.

'Honestly, none of us wanted to sound cocky or so certain that we'd win it,' Belding said. 'We figured we had a good chance, but we knew we had to come out every day and play.'

Belding's experience and composure were key parts to Westview's success, too.

'Phil is a competitor,' Westview coach Steve Antich said. 'He's hit all the big shots, threw all the big passes, pitched all the big innings. He's one of the guys in that class who's had a lot of success.'

Sunset posed the first big test of Westview's 2011 season, winning the first two games of the two teams' series and allowing Southridge to slip past the Wildcats into first place. And when the Skyhawks, facing Westview in the final series of the Metro season, beat the Wildcats in game one, the Wildcats had suffered three losses in four games and fell two games behind the Skyhawks for the league championship.

But Westview rallied from there, took the final two games of the Southridge series to forge a tie for the league championship - with Belding pitching the finale - and used that momentum to kickstart their coming playoff run.

And what a run it was. Westview dispatched Lakeridge 7-2, Sheldon 3-0 (with Belding going 3-for-3), Lake Oswego 4-0 in the quarterfinals (with Belding throwing a three-hitter), and Jesuit 18-0 in the semifinals.

There was one more hurdle to clear for Belding and the Cats, though, and that hurdle came in the state championship game when Central Catholic raced out to a 5-0 lead after three innings and knocked Wildcat starter Sam Johnson from the game.

Enter Belding and the start of the Cats' comeback. With Belding on the mound - he picked up the win in relief after throwing four innings, allowing one run on four hits and one walk while striking out three - the Cats bats came to life.

'He was just what the doctor ordered,' Antich said of Belding. 'He was a good change off Sam because ha he a little more developed curveball and offspeed pitches.'

'I was a little nervous in the bullpen, but I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be,' Belding said. 'I just told myself 'It starts with me. If I do well, we'll be OK.''

The Wildcats were indeed 'OK.' Johnson homered twice and knocked in four runs in the win, and lit the fuse on a Westview offensive explosion that included five home runs and nine runs in the final four innings of Westview's 9-6 win over the Rams.

'With every home run, we said 'That's exactly what we needed,' Belding said. 'Then when Sam hit (his three-run homer in the seventh), it was so great. It was the best feeling ever. No one can ever take this away from us.'