The Lions hit free throws down the stretch to finally put away the pesky Cougars

by: VERN UYETAKE - Point guard Payton Pritchard makes a move past a Canby defender in West Linn's victory over the Cougars last week.The West Linn boys basketball team has been taking every team's best shot of late, which can be a byproduct of success and a top-five ranking in the state.

Most recently, Canby gave the Lions all they could handle last Friday, trailing by just one point heading into the fourth quarter.

West Linn had an up and down evening to that point and had been unable to sustain a run to pull away from the Cougars. However, in the fourth quarter, the Lions were composed and under control, gaining a little separation with some smart possessions before sealing the game at the foul line in a 76-69 victory.

The game went back and forth from the outset with the Lions opening the game slightly flat. West Linn led by two points after the first quarter but struggled to find a groove.

“The game was called really tight on both sides and so it was tough to get into a rhythm and I thought Canby played really well all night,” coach Eric Viuhkola said.

West Linn appeared to start to pull away from Canby on more than one occasion but, each time, Canby responded to pull within one possession.

“It's been our M.O. lately to make a run and then not be able to put teams away. One of these days it's going to bite us and I just hope it doesn't happen in the playoffs,” Viuhkola said.

The Lions maintained their two-point advantage going into the half and, in the third quarter, the team started to find its stride offensively.

“We finally started to play our full-court game a bit but then you'd get another guy into foul trouble and so everything was just a bit disjointed,” Viuhkola said.

However, Canby started to heat up as well and refused to go away. West Linn's Ryan Shearmire also aggravated a shoulder injury in the contest and would go to the locker room before eventually returning.

West Linn led by just one points with eight minutes to go but the Lions made another small run early in the fourth quarter.

With still more than two minutes to play in the game, Canby started to foul in earnest to slow the game down and the Lions responded, hitting 13 of 17 from the line in the fourth quarter and going 25-for-32 for the game in that statistic.

Canby could never draw closer and was forced to settle for a narrow defeat.

The Lions had four starters score in double figures led by Anthony Mathis and Hayden Coppedge each with 18 points. Shearmire added 17 while Payton Pritchard scored 14 to go along with 10 assists.

West Linn will take on Oregon City on the road this Friday in the first game of the double-header, starting at 6 p.m.

“Oregon City's much better than they have been. There really isn't a drop off in our league at all this year,” Viuhkola said.

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