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Boys hoopsters rally falls short against South Eugene

It may have been a loss but, after the game, the West Linn boys basketball team was pretty happy about a few things. First, it felt it played its best basketball of the season during the second half in which the Lions erased nearly all of an 18-point deficit. And second, the team thought that South Eugene may have been the toughest team it has faced all year.

And with that in mind, having a three-point shot to send the game to overtime is pretty respectable. The Lions struggled on defense early in the game. South Eugene was able to pick West Linn apart, working the ball into the paint and getting easy looks.

Keeping with tradition, the Lions went up against another player in the preseason who is getting attention from Division-1 schools.

As a result, the Axemen were able to get out to a quick double-digit lead. South Eugene went up by 18 and led by 16 at the half, which made for an uphill battle.

Coach Aaron Downs took the break to try and motivate his team to make a comeback.

'We've had a tough road schedule so this wasn't anything new to us. I said there aren't any excuses, you have to know how to play,' Downs said.

To start the third quarter, West Linn looked like a completely different team. The Lions dominated the opening minutes of the half.

'We took it to them. We became the aggressors,' Downs said. West Linn quickly cut into the deficit and might have made it up entirely if it wasn't for some hot shooting from the Axemen.

South Eugene's top shooter knocked down all three of his team's three-pointers for the game in the third stanza.

Still, the Lions were able to do virtually anything they wanted to on offense.

West Linn cut the lead to 10 points with one quarter to play and then went on another run to start the fourth period.

This time the Lions were able to make it a one-possession game. West Linn made up nearly the entire deficit with under a minute to play.

After a steal the Lions trailed by two with a chance to tie or take the lead. Justin Monahan took the ball and beat his defender on the way to the hoop. Monahan knocked down a driving lay-up and drew contact. Monahan was called for an offensive foul much to the chagrin of the Lions.

'At first we were thrilled because we thought he was getting a free throw to give us the lead,' Downs said.

In the second half, West Linn was whistled for 15 fouls compared to five blown on South Eugene.

After another foul, the Axemen hit one of two free throws. The Lions' final three-pointer missed giving South Eugene the narrow victory.

'This is the fourth game we've lost by three points or less. We know things will turn. Every one of these gets us ready for league,' Downs said.

For the game, Max Cathcart led the Lions with 19 points and seven rebounds. Ryan Barnes filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals.