Boys basketball: Wilsonville goes back-to-back with state title game win over Churchill
The 5A state title game featured a concatenation of indelible sights.
Wilsonville senior Harrison Steiger's forceful fourth quarter rejection, senior Zach Reichle's first quarter floor slaps, fourth quarter deep 3-pointer and subsequent interaction with former Wilsonville players, sophomore Jack Roche's frenetic weaving through the defense late in the fourth quarter and senior Zac Woodworth's jockeying with 6-foot-10 Spencer Hoffman inside.
Then, senior guard Kyle Willett held the game ball as the game ended, players and coaches hugged in exultation and players formed a dog pile at center court for the second year in a row and sliced a Gill Coliseum net to smithereens.
All sights pointed to one fact. Wilsonville did it again.
The No. 1-seeded Wilsonville boys basketball team contained No. 2 Churchill's high-powered offense and defeated the Lancers 51-43 Friday, March 10 in Corvallis to seal its second consecutive state title.
Wilsonville players young and old cherished the accomplishment.
"This year it's such a great feeling again. This year it is a little better (than last year) because it's my last year. Lots of great guys on the team, lots of great coaches. I have tears of joy. It's just amazing," Steiger said.
"It was amazing. I don't know how to describe it in any other way, just pretty cool. It's awesome to send the seniors out like this. For the rest of us younger guys, we just have to get back to work and try to do this again because this is probably one of the best feelings I've ever had," sophomore guard Jack Roche said.
Junior point guard Caleb Larsen added: "It was a tough game but it was amazing. It is a really good feeling."
Reichle delivered one of the signature performances of his career – finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists – and was named Wilsonville's Player of the Game. Reichle will play at Gill Coliseum as an Oregon State Beaver starting next year — a fact that is tough for Wilsonville head coach Chris Roche to process.
"He's not just a scorer; he's is a flat out assassin. What he wants to do is win and he just hunts you down and beats you. I'd coach a kid like him forever if I could but I have to pass him on to coach (Oregon State head coach) Tinkle now and that sucks," Roche said.
Steiger added 10 points and three rebounds to cap an impressive streak of state tournament performances over the last two years. Reichle and Steiger received medals together as First Team All-State Tournament recipients for the second straight year while senior wing Zac Woodworth had the team's toughest defensive task and also scored 10 points.
And the state title game itself was a treasure to behold.
From the opening tip-off, it was reminiscent of an NBA game in that individual matchups, to a certain extent, overrode team concepts.
For one, Reichle and Steiger pitched in to guard high-flying Churchill guard Lucas Wilson while Wilson guarded Steiger the entire game. On the other end, Woodworth had the unenviable task of checking Hoffman from start to finish.
"You can't simulate Lucas Wilson in practice because he's too athletic. You can't simulate 6-10. We just had to watch them, talk about their strengths, talk about the things we could do to disrupt them. And talk about consistency and heart for 32 minutes," coach Roche said.
In the first quarter, Reichle gallivanted through the lane, finished a lay-up while drawing a foul, slapped the floor twice in appreciation and gave the Wildcats a 7-4 lead with 5:31 left in the first quarter.
Churchill guard Cameron Hall though struck back with his first of two first half 3-pointers to tie the game 7-7.
The two teams knotted 12-12 through the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Reichle's spin move and no-look pass to Woodworth inside and his assist to Steiger in transition helped forge Wilsonville's biggest first half lead, 18-13, but Hall hit another 3-pointer and Wilsonville led 20-16 at halftime.
Wilson guarded Steiger well and rejected one of his shots emphatically in the first half but Steiger still managed six first half points.
'He's an unreal athlete, probably the best athlete I've played against. Against him you just have to try to get him up in the air and just try to move the ball and not try to do too much," Steiger said.
Despite Churchill's combination of size, athleticism and shooting, Wilsonville held the Lancers to 36 percent shooting in the first half while Hoffman did not score and rarely touched the ball.
"He's a great player. Basically my method was just to beat him to the spot early because I knew once I got behind him it was game over because he's a very talented player," Woodworth said.
Churchill made a point to feed Hoffman inside in the second half and the senior post began to impose his will. Hoffman scored six quick third quarter points and tagged both Steiger and Woodworth with their third foul of the game.
Churchill went on a 9-4 run to open the half and took a 25-24 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Hoffman added insult to injury when he induced Steiger into fouling him and bloodied Steiger's chin – forcing the Wilsonville senior to wear a band aid thereafter.
But Jack Roche probed the defense and found Woodworth for a corner 3-pointer, Reichle hit his first three of the game and Wilsonville took a 34-31 lead entering the fourth quarter.
With the game on the line, Reichle took over.
The Wilsonville senior scored in the post, sunk a deep 3-pointer while drawing a foul and made 2-of-2 free throws to extend Wilsonville's lead to 43-39 with 4:30 left. Reichle scored 15 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, Hoffman continued to excel in the post and dominated the glass. Churchill grabbed two offensive rebounds in the first half and eight in the second half.
Still, the pendulum seemed to tilt in Wilsonville's favor for the final time after Steiger emphatically rejected a Churchill shot to set up a Reichle lay-in on the other end.
Wilson finished his second earth shattering jam to cut the Wildcats lead to 47-43 with 1:14 left but drove vigorously toward the rim on three straight occasions thereafter only to be denied a bucket.
Wilson finished with 15 points but made just 5-of-18 shots from the floor. Hoffman scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Also, Churchill shot just 38 percent from the field in the game while Wilsonville made 49 percent of its shots.
"We just loaded up on the ball. He's (Wilson) obviously a ridiculous athlete so we just did what we can to not let him get in the paint," Reichle said.
With 12 seconds left, Wilsonville junior point guard Caleb Larsen stepped up to the line and sealed Churchill's fate – knocking down two free throws to give Wilsonville a 51-43 lead with 12 seconds left.
"It was a little nerve racking," Jack said of the final minutes. "The senior leadership was huge. All 15 guys were talking. Every player was a leader. Even the ones who didn't get to see the floor, they were yelling out the other team's plays to us so we had an idea of what was going on."
Then, Wilsonville starters exited the game and senior guard Kyle Willett held the game ball as the game ended.
With the win, Wilsonville finished the season with a 27-1 record overall, an undefeated record against 5A competition and a net rating of + 22.5.
Though "gassed" after battling Hoffman all game long, Woodworth put his feeling after the game into simple terms.
"Best feeling ever," he said.
On Friday night, Steiger and Reichle capped four-year varsity careers that featured three state title game appearances, two state title wins and many fond memories.
Roche can't imagine Wilsonville practices without them but envisions the departing duo inspiring the next generation of Wildcats.
"I'm heartbroken already. It's not just how good they are. That's part of it as a coach. It's also, they're just great kids," Roche said. "But things renew, younger guys come on and maybe someone will watch Harrison and say 'I want to be that kind of stopper' or somebody at Wilsonville sees Zach Reichle and says I' want to get out in the street and shoot everyday and I want to become the next Zach Reichle.' When they do I hope I'm still around to coach them because it's been a joy to coach our four seniors this year."
For more coverage of Wilsonville's state title win, read next week's edition of the Wilsonville Spokesman.