West Linn fends off a late rally from Central Catholic to take home the 6A boys state basketball title 45-41

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Jarrod Howard holds the state championship trophy surrounded by his teammates in the moments following the Lions' 45-41 victory over Central Catholic Saturday night at the Rose Garden.For the second time in school history and the first time in 16 years, the West Linn Lions are state basketball champions.

West Linn gutted out another harrowing victory to fend off Central Catholic for 45-41 for the title.

Compared to the Lions' previous two wins at the state tournament, the four-point spread in the finale looks like a comparative blowout, but West Linn needed to fend off a furious late charge from the Rams to preserve the victory.

In a back and forth contest, West Linn finally started to gain some separation in the fourth quarter when the team's three-point shooting, which had been spotty for much of the tournament, suddenly came around.

Anthony Mathis hit two big three-pointers and Payton Pritchard and Hayden Coppedge added one a piece to put West Linn up 43-32 with 3:06 to play in the game.

But Central Catholic responded with a quick 9-1 run to cut the gap to three points with less than a minute to play.

The Lions struggled against the Rams' full-court pressure in the final minutes and gave Central Catholic the ball with a chance to tie, but the Lions came up with clutch defense late in the game once again.

After missing the front end of a one-and-one a few moments earlier, Ryan Shearmire connected for a crucial foul shot with 3.2 seconds left in the game to nail down the win.

Shearmire and Mathis each finished with 15 points to lead the Lions, who graduate just one started this year in Jarrod Howard.

Look for complete coverage on the team's state title run in this Thursday's Tidings.

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