by: Vern Uyetake, 
Tommy Patrick loses his footing on a drive to the hoop last Tuesday during West Linn’s 63-60 victory. West Linn wore down a scrappy Lakeridge team to earn its first league victory.

After Tuesday's opening league game in which the Lions eked past Lakeridge 63-60, coach Aaron Downs said the bus was taking his team back to West Linn and his players were going to practice shooting free throws.

That's probably not a bad idea coming off a 58.3% shooting night from the line. The silver lining to that statistic however is that the Lions shot an astounding 48 free throws on the night.

In a truly bizarre affair, West Linn overcame Lakeridge's hyper-aggressive defense and Justin Monahan simply willed the Lions to victory in the fourth quarter.

'I told the guys it was a very ugly game. I felt I needed to take a shower after that one. I was happy to come away with the win though. When you play on the road in our league it's never an easy game,' coach Aaron Downs said.

Monahan had a game-high 31 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. He hit 13 of 16 free throws by himself in the game including 8 of 11 in the final period.

As astounding as a 48-13 advantage in foul shots may seem, an argument could be made that the Lions were actually short-changed.

Lakeridge hounded West Linn on defense, particularly when the ball went in the paint, frustrating post Max Cathcart who shot 19 free throws in the contest.

Cathcart was draped by defenders all evening as the Lions attempted to exploit their height advantage inside. As a result, he had 14 points but only knocked down two field goals.

'They play a very scrappy and physical style. I told our bigs to just keep playing through it,' Downs said.

Aside from the myriad stoppages due to the whistles, the game was exciting from start to finish as neither team took more than a five-point lead at any period in the game.

West Linn looked to Monahan early and he scored the team's first five points. The Lions knocked down seven of eight free throws in the opening quarter but they also turned the ball over eight times.

Lakeridge, despite being undersized, performed admirably on the boards and hurt West Linn on second-chance opportunities all night.

'We need to go back to the drawing board with rebounding. We have to get tougher,' Downs said.

The Pacers had a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter but the Lions responded by cutting down on turnovers. West Linn forced nine Lakeridge turnovers in the second stanza and only gave the ball up twice.

But the Lions struggled to get things working inside. Meanwhlie, Lakeridge's Josh Little knocked down a pair of three-pointers to give his team a lead.

When West Linn needed offense, it looked to Monahan again. The guard had 12 points in the quarter and keyed a late 6-0 run for the Lions which gave them a 35-30 lead at the break.

Lakeridge started the third quarter on fire. The Pacers ran their shooters off screens and they knocked down a bevy of jump shots to start the second half on a 16-6 run.

Offensive rebounds continued to plague West Linn but the Pacers eventually went cold and, as the Lions fed Cathcart, the fouls mounted up for Lakeridge again. Cathcart had seven of his team's 10 points in the third quarter but was visibly frustrated by the Pacers' physical defense.

The Lions trailed by one point heading into the final quarter and another put-back helped Lakeridge extend its lead. West Linn also went ice cold from the foul line. Not including Monahan's attempts, the Lions were 0-7 from the line in the final period.

After withstanding an early burst by Lakeridge, the fourth quarter was neck and neck. With three minutes to play, Monahan took the game over. He knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Lions the lead and came up with four key rebounds in the period.

West Linn gave up the lead when Chris Hoch hit two free throws but, with a minute and a half to play, Ryan Barnes knocked in a driving lay-up. Moments later, after eating up some clock, Monahan drove to the hoop and hit a running lay-up while falling down to put the Lions up 60-57 with 26.6 seconds to play.

'I was pleased with our composure. I thought we came together and made plays when we needed to,' Downs said.

On Lakeridge's next possession, Monahan came up with his sixth steal of the night, scored the lay-up and was fouled. He converted the three-point play, hitting eight of his last nine free throws to seemingly put the game away.

'The things (Monahan) gives you are intangibles. He comes up with big plays,' Downs said.

But Little knocked down a clutch three-pointer and, with under three seconds to play, Barnes missed a pair of free throws. Lakeridge's Trevan Hertz put up a half-court shot to send the game to over time but he threw it over the backboard to preserve a harrowing but important victory for the Lions.

'Playing a tough schedule helped prepare us for a game like this,' Downs said.

Monahan had 31 points and nine rebounds in the game while Cathcart had 14 points and nine boards. Jeff Bush drew two key charges in the game as well.

The win marks West Linn's third in a row, including last week's 72-66 victory over highly-ranked Central Catholic. Monahan had 31 points in that game as well.

'The kids are excited. We'd like to keep momentum going,' Downs said.

The Rams may have overlooked the Lions slightly due to their less than stellar record, but West Linn put together a balanced attack and built a 10-point lead at one point and held off a late spurt by Central Catholic. Spencer Flores had 14 rebounds in the game.

West Linn then picked up another victory over an athletic and physical Tigard squad. The Tigers controlled the first half, taking a 26-20 lead at the break as the Lions failed to establish a rhythm on offense.

But West Linn quickly mounted a run in the third quarter, taking the lead and extending it to eight points.

Once again, poor foul shooting allowed the Lions' opponent to get back in the game but West Linn came up with key stops when it needed them and held on to win 57-54.

Next up for the Lions is a non-league game at home on Friday against West Salem. Then West Linn hosts No. 1 Oregon City on Tuesday.

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