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Boys basketball: Wilsonville overcomes setbacks to take sixth place in 5A tournament

Shorthanded Wildcats earn sixth state trophy in a row


by: GREG ARTMAN - Sophomore wing Tyler Hieb goes up for a close-range shot March 13 during the Wilsonville boys basketball team's quarterfinal game against Portland-Jefferson. The Wildcats finished the tournament in sixth place.The Wilsonville boys basketball team had excuses at its disposal.

It could have given in to top-ranked Portland-Jefferson in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A tournament after losing senior starter Zach Malvar to a season-ending knee injury before halftime.

It could have let a deficit against Eagle Point in the consolation bracket spoil its remarkable trophy streak.

And with hardware already secured, it could have allowed the medically precautionary absence of starting forward Jack McNulty to dictate its effort in the fourth-place game against Sherwood.

But the eighth-ranked Wildcats (20-8) turned in several gritty performances March 13-15 during the OSAA state championships at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

They finished in sixth place, earned a state trophy for the sixth year in a row and reached the 20-win mark for the seventh-consecutive season. They have gone 141-32 since the start of the 2008-09 season.

Wilsonville came close to knocking off Jefferson, the eventual state champion, rallied for a win over Eagle Point and came up a few plays short against the rival Bowmen in their final three games of a successful season.

“We faced big teams, we faced good teams, we faced injuries, we faced setbacks — but through it all we played hard and we played together,” coach Chris Roche said. “Winning a trophy was outstanding — it’s never any easy thing to do, much less when you have a group as young as ours was this year. But they did it, and they earned every bit of it.”

***

Even without its only senior starter for the second half, Wilsonville was a few plays away from upsetting the No. 1 team in the state.

The Wildcats contained Gonzaga-bound star Silas Melson, held Jefferson more than 25 points below its scoring average and managed a lead early in the fourth quarter.

But live turnovers and missed shots doomed Wilsonville late in an oh-so-close 51-49 loss to the Democrats in the quarterfinals March 13.

The setback was particularly devastating for Malvar, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament late in the second quarter and did not return. He sustained the injury after elevating to block a shot and being knocked off balance as he planted in pursuit of a loose ball.

“We don’t like to make excuses or play the ‘what if’ game, but it is a little hard not to do so when you lose a player like Zach in the first half of a game you lose to the top-ranked team in the state by two points,” Roche said. “The reality is it was sad for Zach and terrible that way, but our other kids continued fighting in an impressive way, and we almost pulled off the upset without him. It was inspiring, impressive — a moment of real pride for all of us in the program given the circumstances. Our guys fought hard and went toe-to-toe with the eventual state champs, and we had every chance to win.”

It was the latest in a string of dangerously narrow victories for Jefferson, which defeated Portland-Benson and Portland-Cleveland by just 11 points combined in its final two league games before surviving against Springfield in the first round of the playoffs, 82-78.

Jefferson went on to win the 5A championship by defeating Eugene-Churchill in another close game, 69-64.

The Wildcats held Melson to 17 points on 4-for-14 shooting five days after he exploded for 41 against Springfield. Kadeem Strickland finished with a game-high 18.

“We believe we can guard anybody playing straight-up man-to-man and without any zones or other gimmicks,” Roche said. “I thought our kids did that pretty well in the Jeff game — certainly well enough to give us a great chance to win.”

Freshman wing Zach Reichle finished with 14 points and eight rebounds to lead Wilsonville. Tyler Hieb and Tyler Martin each added 11.

Wilsonville held a 42-39 lead with 6:18 remaining after two free throws by Reichle, but the Democrats engineered a 9-0 run and remained in control the rest of the way.

After Strickland scored in the paint, Dario Papa-Vicente turned a steal into an easy fast-break layup to give Jefferson a one-point edge with 5:41 to play. Melson then knocked down a 3-pointer to extend his team’s lead to four, and Devaunte Paschal made it 48-42 on a jumper with 3:37 left.

“If we could have held on to the ball on offense a bit better, Jeff would not have scored 50,” Roche said. “We had four or five live turnovers that led to 10 break-out points for them where they never had to go against our D. So those points were actually scored on our offense — not our defense.”

The Wildcats cut their deficit to 49-47 on a 3-pointer by Reichle with 22 seconds remaining, but Strickland effectively iced the game with two free throws.

Wilsonville went 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the final five minutes.

It was a testament to the Wildcats’ poise that the game was close down the stretch. After falling behind by nine points early, they regrouped with a 30-16 run to take a 36-31 lead late in the third quarter.

Jefferson prevailed despite finishing with a season-low 51 points. Reichle and Strickland were selected as the players of the game.

***

Roche was curious how his team would respond — not just to its heartbreaking loss to Jefferson, but also to the absence of Malvar.

Curiosity became delight.

Wilsonville could have used the adversity as an excuse and folded, but it instead rallied for a landmark 52-45 win over Eagle Point in the Class 5A consolation bracket March 14.

“It was a huge win for our guys — a season-changer in some ways — and the things that made it awesome were how hard it was and good the opponent was,” Roche said.

The Wildcats guaranteed a sixth-straight state trophy, secured a 20-win season for the seventh season in a row and set up a rivalry rematch against Sherwood in the fourth-place game.

Reichle had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Wilsonville, while Hieb added 13 and sophomore point guard Sam Bullock chipped in 10 to go along with four assists. Tyler Martin had eight points and McNulty added seven as well as six rebounds.

The Wildcats attempted just 25 field goals — half of Eagle Point’s shot total — but advanced in the tournament thanks to an impressive 25-of-26 performance at the foul line, including 12-of-12 in the second half.

“That is incredible, and I think it shows how clutch this group could be,” Roche said. “In their biggest game of the year with their backs against the wall and their season hanging in the balance, they just drilled free throw after free throw.”

Trailing by three early in the fourth quarter after a bucket by Eagles guard Jorge Quintero (21 points), the Wildcats pulled ahead with a 6-0 run and never relinquished control.

McNulty scored on a tip-in. Hieb hit a jumper after a steal by Martin to give Wilsonville a 42-41 edge with 5:46 remaining. Bullock extended the lead on a layup with 4:23 left.

The Wildcats forced Eagle Point into fouling and sealed their victory at the stripe, where four different players — Reichle, Martin, Hieb and Bullock — combined to go 8-of-8 in the final 2:03.

Accuracy at the line helped Wilsonville overcome a flawed second quarter in which its 21-12 edge vanished. The Eagles closed the frame on a 17-3 run to take a 29-24 halftime lead.

The Wildcats delivered with their defense in the second half, outscoring Eagle Point 28-16 over the final 16 minutes.

“The kids responded with a great second half,” Roche said. “We had some unbelievable individual efforts in that game. Tyler Martin stepped up and, along with Sam Bullock, played great defense on Eagle Point’s best two perimeter players.”

Reichle and Quintero were honored as the players of the game.

***

It was going to be hard enough without Malvar. Not having McNulty made it even tougher.

Wilsonville still made things interesting down the stretch but fell 50-43 to sixth-ranked Sherwood in the teams’ third meeting of the season, this time in the fourth-place game of the Class 5A tournament March 15.

The Wildcats finished their campaign in sixth place, earning a state trophy for the sixth year in a row and reaching the 20-win mark for the seventh-consecutive season.

Hieb lived up to his first-team all-league status with a game-high 24 points, but the rest of the team combined for just five field goals.

Reichle added eight points but struggled from the floor, going 1-of-11 in the final game of a stellar freshman campaign. Bullock added seven points and four assists.

Wilsonville went just 32.4% (12-of-37) from the field. Sherwood (22-5) made 18 of its 28 shots (64.3%), including six of its eight 3-pointers.

The absence of McNulty was particularly distressing for the Wildcats, who had trouble containing Bowmen forward Jordan Kurahara. The NWOC player of the year racked up 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

McNulty, who has had breathing difficulties while playing sports, met with a cardiologist earlier in the year and was evaluated by medical personnel after the team’s win over Eagle Point. He warmed up before Wilsonville’s game against Sherwood but was held out as a precaution.

“Jack is our biggest kid, and he makes a huge difference for us defensively and on the boards,” Roche said. “So we knew it would be tougher without (him and Malvar) playing. Defending Kurahara and Sherwood is not easy with a full team, but down two starters and two of your best and most critical defenders — it becomes a real challenge.”

The Wildcats made several strong rallies in the second half, but Sherwood answered each time.

Trailing by 10 points with 5:06 left in the third quarter, Wilsonville closed the frame on a 7-2 run and pulled within 37-34 on two free throws by Hieb with 6:34 left to play.

But the Bowmen took advantage of a cold spell by the Wildcats and built their lead back up to 46-36 on a free throw by Ben Milligan with 1:56 remaining.

Six points in a row by Hieb — including a rare four-point play with 1:38 left — brought Wilsonville within four with 52 seconds to play. Sherwood held on by making six free throws in the final 37 seconds.

“Even though the outcome was not what we wanted, our effort in the Sherwood game was exemplary,” Roche said. “Shorthanded or not, we fought like mad. To be down only three points and to have the ball late in the fourth quarter was a testimony to how hard we fought. We would not go away, and we almost got them.”

***

AT A GLANCE

Jefferson 51, Wilsonville 49

March 13 at Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene)

                        1          2          3          4          F

Wilsonville      10        13        15        11 — 49

Jefferson         15        9          13        14 — 51

Wilsonville (49): Zach Reichle 14, Tyler Hieb 11, Tyler Martin 11, Zach Malvar 5, Sam Bullock 4, Jack McNulty 4.

Jefferson (51): Kadeem Strickland 18, Silas Melson 17, Devaunte Paschal 8, Dario Papa-Vicente 4, Gabe Garrett 2, Quintus Hall 2.

Three-point goals: Wilsonville 4-14 (Zach Reichle 2-6, Tyler Hieb 1-4, Zach Malvar 1-3, Tyler Martin 0-1; Jefferson 4-14 (Kadeem Strickland 2-6, Silas Melson 2-7, Devaunte Paschal 0-1.

Rebounds: Wilsonville 27, Jefferson 21. Assists: Wilsonville 9, Jefferson 5.

***

AT A GLANCE

Wilsonville 52, Eagle Point 45

March 14 at Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene)

                        1          2          3          4          F

Wilsonville      12        12        14        14 — 52

Eagle Point      11        18        8          8  — 45

Wilsonville (52): Zach Reichle 14, Tyler Hieb 13, Sam Bullock 10, Tyler Martin 8, Jack McNulty 7.

Eagle Point (45): Jorge Quintero 21, Cesar Chavez 17, Lucas Morris 3, Austin Holmes 2, Peyton Dole 2.

Three-point goals: Wilsonville 1-6 (Tyler Hieb 1-1, Sam Bullock 0-1, Zach Reichle 0-4); Eagle Point 4-17 (Jorge Quintero 3-9, Lucas Morris 1-2, David Barber 0-2, Cesar Chavez 0-4).

Rebounds: Wilsonville 27, Eagle Point 17. Assists: Wilsonville 7, Eagle Point 5.

***

AT A GLANCE

Sherwood 50, Wilsonville 43

March 15 at Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene)

                        1          2          3          4          F

Wilsonville      9          6          14        14 — 43

Sherwood        14        9          11        16 — 50

Wilsonville (43): Tyler Hieb 24, Zach Reichle 8, Sam Bullock 7, Tyler Martin 2, Harrison Steiger 2.

Sherwood (50): Jordan Kurahara 23, Lucas Johnson 10, Keegan Lawrence 6, Ben Milligan 3, Alex Castaneda 3, Cortland Hutchison 3, Evan Kitto 2.

Three-point goals: Wilsonville 4-15 (Tyler Hieb 2-5, Sam Bullock 1-3, Zach Reichle 1-6, Tyler Martin 0-1); Sherwood 6-8 (Keegan Lawrence 2-2, Lucas Johnson 2-2, Cortland Hutchison 1-1, Alex Castaneda 1-2, Ben Milligan 0-1).

Rebounds: Sherwood 24, Wilsonville 14. Assists: Sherwood 9, Wilsonville 7.




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