The Lions roll over McMinnville 74-55 and will face Westview on Friday

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Anthony Mathis puts up a shot in front of the McMinnville bench in West Linn's opening-round playoff win on Tuesday.The West Linn boys basketball team opened what it hopes is another march to the Rose Garden in impressive fashion on Tuesday, blasting McMinnville 74-55 with a tremendous first-half performance.

Coach Eric Viuhkola has preached all season that the team needs to be peaking over these next few weeks and, on Tuesday, the Lions put together one of their better outings of the season.

“I don't want to jinx it, but we've done a really good job practicing and playing hard and I feel like we're playing out best basketball of the year,” Viuhkola said.

West Linn was tremendous on offense, putting up 46 points in the first two quarters and active defensively, deflecting dozens of passes and turning steals into fast-break points.

“I feel like a lot of our improvement has been on defense. Teams are still scoring but we're making it tough for them and we're getting teams to play our style,” Viuhkola said.

Last year the Lions were given two strong challenges before reaching the state tournament, including a tough first-round battle with Roseburg.

West Linn avoided that early sluggishness this year. McMinnville got some good looks early in the game and hit shots but the Lions were on fire early on.

Hayden Coppedge paced the offense, draining three three-pointers in the first quarter. West Linn would extend the lead to double digits and led 25-14 after eight minutes. Coppedge had 13 points in the first quarter.

The Lions continued to extend their advantage early in the second period, opening with an 8-0 keyed by three-pointers from Anthony Mathis and Ryan Shearmire.

West Linn would go up by 20 points before the starters got a brief respite. However, McMinnville made a brief charge, scoring five quick points and prompting the Lions' first unit to re-enter the game.

Coppedge quelled the mini run with another three-pointer, giving him 19 first-half point.

“Hayden had one of the best games of his career. He took a lot of good shots,” Viuhkola said.

Mathis would then hit a shot right before the buzzer as West Linn led 46-27 at the break.

West Linn opened the second half with a resounding alley-oop from Mathis to Shearmire and the Grizzlies never made much of a dent in the Lions' lead.

Mathis and Shearmire combined for 50 of the team's 74 points.

The Lions will now host Westview on Friday with a third straight trip to the Rose Garden on the line.

Westview is coming off a win over North Medford, a team which has beaten West Linn in the playoffs the last two years.

West Linn knocked off Westview at home earlier this year 64-56.

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