West Linn goes 3-1, fending off Whitney Young in its tourney finale

by: VERN UYETAKE - CJ Sitton puts up a shot against a defender in West Linn's win over South Eugene at the Les Schwab Invitational.The West Linn boys basketball team was the only team from Oregon to advance to the semifinals of this year's Les Schwab Invitational and then came close to pulling off one of the biggest shockers of the weekend against Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman before rebounding to top Whitney Young 68-67 in the third-place game.

The Lions cruised against a pair of strong in-state opponents to open up the tournament, knocking off South Eugene 80-51 and then Tigard 58-44.

West Linn then took on Bishop Gorman, which features an NBA-sized frontcourt with three players listed at 6 feet 9 inches or taller, including a 7-footer.

It seemed to be a mismatch on paper, but in the early-going it was Bishop Gorman that had no answers.

The Lions, perhaps unsurprisingly, opened the game with an outside attack. In a back-and-forth start, Payton Pritchard scored West Linn's first 12 points all coming on shots from behind the arc.

The Lions then continued their hot streak and went on an impressive run.

West Linn scored the next 18 points of the game, with multiple shooters contributing, sending Bishop Gorman reeling. When Bishop Gorman committed to defending the perimeter, the Lions were able to get the ball inside for good looks and took a shocking 29-14 lead into the half.

Pritchard had 21 of the team's 29 points at the half, including five 3-pointers.

The Lions continued their hot streak early in the third quarter with Anthony Mathis heating up from long range but, to Bishop Gorman's credit, the team didn't panic and settled back into its game quickly.

As the pace of the game quickened, Bishop Gorman slowly started to whittle away at the lead.

The teams traded 3-pointers but Bishop Gorman's efficiency on offense allowed it to cut the lead to just eight points after the third quarter and gave it some renewed confidence.

The momentum stayed with Bishop Gorman as an 11-2 run eliminated the lead early in the fourth period.

West Linn struggled to get good looks in the final quarter but its defense still kept the team in the game.

A pair of free throws from Mathis and a hoop from Pritchard tied the score with less than two minutes to play.

After Bishop Gorman took a three-point lead, the Lions couldn't get a shot to fall and free throws sealed West Linn's 57-49 defeat.

Despite the disappointing finish, it was still an impressive performance from West Linn, which hung right with one of the top teams in the nation.

The next day, West Linn took on another national powerhouse in Whitney Young from Chicago.

Once again the Lions were hot to start the game, ending the first quarter on an 11-2 run with two 3-pointers from Mathis.

West Linn would extend its lead to 30-19 in the second quarter and stayed hot from behind the arc. Ryan Shearmire had eight points in the quarter and West Linn led 41-31 at the break.

But, like in the previous game, the Lions would need to endure an impressive rally. The pace of the game slowed and the Lions cooled slightly from the field.

Whitney Young would chip away and take a 64-61 lead with one minute to play in the contest. After Whitney Young missed a foul shot, Shearmire drained a three to put the Lions back up 66-65.

Whitney Young start Jahill Okafor drew a foul and hit both shots to give the Dolphins a 67-66 lead with 18 seconds remaining.

However, West Linn drew up a play and Pritchard drained a clutch jump shot with three ticks left. Whitney Young couldn't answer and the Lions held on for the win.

The victory also followed a solid win over a dangerous Tigard team. West Linn took control in the first half, holding the Tigers to just 14 points and building a 29-14 advantage.

West Linn never let Tigard back into the game, hitting 23 of 28 free throws, including a perfect 10-for-10 performance from leading scorer Mathis.

In West Linn's opener, it was a stellar second half that propelled the team. The Axemen hung with West Linn through two quarters, only trailing 35-28.

Hayden Coppedge got the scoring started in the third quarter and Mathis hit a pair of 3-pointers as a 27-point outburst in the third period all but sealed the win for the Lions.

West Linn took on Whitney Young for third place Monday but results weren't available at press time.

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