OSAA Tournament: Boys
by: VERN UYETAKE, Lake Oswego’s Kevin Love (left) and South Medford’s Kyle Singler could meet one last time as high schoolers in the 6A state finals Saturday in Eugene.

Lake Oswego's top-ranked Lakers have buried Westview twice over the last three seasons - once in last year's state quarterfinals, once in this season's Les Schwab Invitational.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats (21-5) will do what they can to make the third time the charm Thursday as they face the defending-champion Lakers (24-1) again in the Class 6A state quarterfinals at Eugene's McArthur Court.

'We have the best chance to beat them now than at any time,' says Andy Poling, Westview's 6-11 junior. 'Everything is coming together at the right time. We're going to win a state championship. We might as well beat them now.'

Poling's matchup with Lake Oswego's UCLA-bound Kevin Love will be critical to Westview's chances.

'I can't wait,' says Poling, who has verbally committed to Gonzaga. 'He's gotten the best of me both times we've played. I'm ready to play really well against him.'

Poling's health is better than it was earlier in the season, after he lost 30 pounds over a period of six months due to a mysterious ailment that remains undiagnosed - even after a couple of trips to specialists. But Poling is keeping his food down and has regained about 10 pounds (up to 210) and some of his stamina.

'I'm better,' says Poling, a first-team All-Metro League selection this winter after being named second-team All-State as a sophomore. 'Hopefully, it's one of those things where your body is going to cycle through it. I'm just trying to give it time.'

Love leads the way

The 6-10, 260-pound Love - a Parade and McDonald's first-team All-American who is expected to be named national player of the year - needs 44 points to pass Knappa's Robert 'Pudgy' Hunt and become Oregon's all-time prep scoring leader. Poling would love to prevent Love from that achievement, and hopes teammates Trevor Siefken (6-9) and Greg Shepard (6-7) will help with the defensive assignment.

'(Love) is amazing,' Poling says. 'He's good because he's real strong and has all the skills. He takes up so much space and impacts the game in so many ways, both offensively and defensively. But I think we can cause some problems for him with our length and depth.'

Coach Pat Coons' Wildcats have won 10 of their last 11 games, including a 58-45 victory at Tigard last Saturday that propels them into the Elite Eight. Westview will pressure the Lakers with wings Andrew Jones, a 6-2 All-Metro choice, and Chris Richard and shifty junior point guard Terell Wallace.

'We're not looking at this game in terms of, 'Uh-oh, we're playing L.O.,' ' Coons says. 'Our kids have a lot of respect for them, but we're not afraid. They have one incredible player in Kevin, a solid player who shoots the ball with tremendous confidence in (senior point guard Ernie) Spada, and a bunch of good players around them. Kevin is a load, but you can't shy away from them. We're excited for the opportunity.'

This week's 6A tournament features a cast of stars the likes who have not been seen in the state for at least three decades, when Danny Ainge, Ray Blume, Bob Fronk and Mark Radford headlined the 4A event. Division I-bound players Love, Poling, South Medford's Kyle Singler (Duke) and Canby's Clint Chapman (Texas) are the feature performers along with the Panthers' Michael Harthun, a 6-4 junior point guard who has D-I scouts on notice. Love is the top-ranked post player and the 6-8 Singler the No. 1 small forward in most national scouting services.

Rematch in the making?

Lake Oswego is the team favorite, but second-ranked South Medford - which handed the Lakers their only loss in the Les Schwab Invitational - third-ranked Canby and fourth-ranked Jesuit all bring plenty to the table.

'We're a better team than we were last year,' says Mark Shoff, in his 12th season as Lake Oswego coach. 'I don't want to set us up and say we're going to win. To win, you have to have talent, great team chemistry - which we do - and some luck. In any other year, we would probably have a great chance to repeat, but there's a team down south that's awfully good. These are two of the better teams in this state in a long time, with two studs you don't see around these parts very often.

'That said, there are other teams that can beat us. Sheldon beat South Medford during the regular season. You can get dropped if you're not prepared. If we play up to our capabilities, we'll be hard to beat, but things can happen. If Kevin turns an ankle or gets in foul trouble or Ernie leaves the game … we're just not the same team without those two guys.'

There was plenty of fanfare for the Lake Oswego-South Medford showdown in the December Les Schwab Invitational. The Panthers won 71-63. Shoff would love a rematch to happen Saturday night.

'I never wanted to play South Medford when everybody was talking about the big matchup,' he says. 'I didn't think it was a win-win situation. People made too much of it. Teams change a lot in three months. I want to play them - or anybody else - at 8:15 Saturday night in the championship game. That's the game I felt our team was priming itself for all along.'

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