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Wilsonville ends La Salle's championship bid in semis

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The top-ranked Wildcats edged their Northwest Oregon Conference rivals 49-47 in Thursday's OSAA Class 5A boys' basketball semifinals at Gill Coliseum.

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - La Salle Prep's Jonah Pemberton (with ball) ran into defensive resistance from Wilsonville's (from left to right) Jack Roche, Zach Reichle, and Zac Woodworth in the second half of Thursday's OSAA Class 5A boys' basketball semifinal at Gill Coliseum.CORVALLIS -- Over the last six minutes of the third quarter, La Salle Prep's boys' basketball team went ice cold.

The Falcons got hot again in crunch time, but it ended up being too little, too late against Wilsonville as the top-ranked Wildcats held on for a 49-47 victory in Thursday's OSAA Class 5A semifinals at Gill Coliseum.

Wilsonville's Harrison Steiger finished with a team-high 19 points, and Zach Reichle added 14 points as the Wildcats advanced to Friday's 8:30 p.m. championship game against Churchill, an 83-66 winner over Parkrose in Thursday's other semifinal.

La Salle Prep's Jonah Pemberton led all scorers with 25 points, and Jason Burns added nine for the Falcons, who will play for third place against Parkrose Friday at 3:15 p.m.

"It's not where we wanted to be," Falcons coach Sean Christensen said. "It's not what we worked so hard for, to lose in the semifinals, but that's the way it was.

"I wanted to see Wilsonville on the other side of the bracket so we could have maybe met them in the final, but that's how the season went and were our rankings left us. So, you've got to play the game that's there."

The Falcons, facing their Northwest Oregon Conference rivals for the third time this season, led 19-17 at halftime.

Then came one of the worst quarters of basketball that La Salle Prep has played all season.

The quarter started with two Falcons' turnovers, the second coming when Matthew Berger drew an offensive foul -- his third personal of the game -- and the senior post was forced to take a seat on the bench with 7:10 to play.

Burns then made one of two free throws to give La Salle a 22-21 lead with 6:02 left in the quarter, but that was the last point the Falcons scored in the quarter.

La Salle closed out the quarter with eight empty possessions going 0 for 7 from the field and 0 for 2 from the free-throw line with one turnover, and Wilsonville went on an 8-0 run to that turned a one-point deficit into a 29-22 lead.

"The shots we were getting were open shots, and that's all I was thinking," Christensen said. "They were there. I don't have a problem with anybody taking those shots.

"I did feel we were a little out of rhythm and rushed a couple of shots, but I didn't have any timeouts to burn. I knew I was going to need them at the end."

Wilsonville's Zac Woodworth knocked down a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, giving the Wildcats their largest lead of the game, 32-22, with 6:54 left.

From there, the Falcons chipped away, drawing within five points, 38-33, when Pemberton made two free throws with 2:02 remaining.

Reichle then went to the foul line for two free throws and made the first and missed the second with 1:54 to play.

On the miss, Woodworth went over the back of Burns, grabbed the offensive rebound, and then took another 20 seconds off the clock before he scored -- perhaps the most crucial sequence for the Wildcats in crunch time -- to make it 41-33 with 1:25 left.

Pemberton converted a three-point play to get the Falcons back within four, 46-42, with 29.7 seconds left, but Reichle answered with two free throws to make it 48-42.

Stew Robertson then banked in a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to cut Wilsonville's lead to 48-45, but Jack Roche made one of two free throws for the Wildcats with 13.1 seconds left to help seal the win.

"We toughed it out," Wilsonville coach Chris Roche said. "We're just glad to have survived. La Salle deserves a lot of credit. They did everything in their power to catch us. We just held on for dear life.

"I'm happy for our kids, and I'm happy for this group. It's never easy and you never know when you'll ever make it, so we don't take any of it for granted. We're just going to enjoy it and just do our very best."

Pemberton, one of La Salle's nine seniors, found little consolation in the fact that the Falcons still have one game to play.

"If you're not first, you're last, in my opinion.," Pemberton said. "Nobody remembers who finished second, third or fourth. They remember who won. We're playing on the last day, and I want to win Friday and end my high school career on a win, but it hurts.

"We lost. Wilsonville beat us, and there's nothing we can do about it. They beat us."