Sherwood will play for a Class 5A state tourney bid Saturday

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD TIMES -- Sherwood senior Lucas Johnson (23) and junior Evan Kitto celebrate with Sherwood students following the title-clinching win over Liberty.SHERWOOD — One big goal down.

One huge goal to go.

And the Sherwood High School boys basketball team seems to be more than determined to make it 2 for 2.

The Bowmen achieved their first lofty goal on Friday, as they wrapped up the Northwest Oregon Conference championship — their first league title since 2006 — with a dominating 50-25 win over Liberty in a NWOC finale played in front of a large crowd at Sherwood High School.

“This means everything to us,” said Sherwood senior forward Lucas Johnson, who scored a game-high 15 points in the win. “We’ve worked together for this since the Gonzaga summer camp. It feels really good.”

“It’s a new experience,” said Sherwood senior Keegan Lawrence, who played on three Bowmen league-champion football squads. “It’s a different kind of special.”

“We set the goal of winning league during the summer,” Sherwood senior post Jordan Kurahara said. “We said that’s what we wanted to do. We had a couple bumps in the road, but we did it.”

With the loss, Liberty finished regular season play with a conference record of 10-4 and an overall mark of DAN BROOD - ABOVE AND BEYOND -- Sherwood High School senior post Jordan Kurahara goes up high to shoot over three Liberty defenders during Friday's NWOC finale. The Bowmen won 50-25 to clinch the conference title.

With the victory, Sherwood concluded its regular season slate with a 12-2 mark in NWOC games (19-4 overall), putting the Bowmen one game ahead of second-place Wilsonville in the final conference standings. If Sherwood had lost to Liberty on Friday, it would have finished in a three-way tie with the Falcons and Liberty for the top spot in the final standings.

“We didn’t want to share,” Lawrence said with a smile. “We wanted to be league champs all by ourselves.”

And, while the Bowmen celebrated with friends and family following their title-clinching win on Friday, it didn’t take them long to look ahead to their next goal — advancing to the Class 5A state tournament.

“That’s our second goal,” Kurahara said. “We want to get to Eugene, and then do some things there. We want to put Sherwood on the map.”

The Bowmen are just one win away from reaching that state tournament goal. They’ll get a chance to get that win, and the state-tourney bid that goes with it, Saturday when they will be home to play in a Class 5A state playoff game. Sherwood’s playoff opponent, and starting time for Saturday’s game, weren’t set when The Times went to press. The winner of Saturday’s contest will advance to play in the Class 5A state tournament, which starts next Thursday at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

“We’ll work hard to be ready for that game,” Lawrence said of Saturday’s playoff contest. “Getting to the tournament is very important to us. It’s one of our main goals.”

“One of our goals is to get to the final eight,” Johnson said. “That would be huge. We have to prepare for the playoff game. We’re just going to have to keep playing like we have.”

For Sherwood, that means playing some stifling defense.”

That was the case on Friday, when the Bowmen held Liberty to 25 points while helping to force the Falcons into a 10-for-37 shooting night from the field. That performance came just three days after Sherwood limited Wilsonville to just 27 points.

“That’s our trademark,” said Lawrence, who is a defensive stopper for the Bowmen. “We’ve been playing some great defense.”

by: DAN BROOD - ON THE GO -- Sherwood senior guard Alex Castaneda (22) pushes the ball up court during the win over Liberty.“Our defense has carried us,” Kurahara said. “We work hard on defense every day.”

The Bowmen defense sure seemed to be a big factor in Friday’s title-clinching win.

Leading 8-6 after one quarter of play, Sherwood turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter of the contest.

The Bowmen limited Liberty to just five points, on 2 of 8 shooting, in the period. Meanwhile, Sherwood junior point guard Evan Kitto scored seven points in the quarter and junior Tommy Paul sank a three-pointer to help the Bowmen pull away to claim a 22-11 halftime lead.

The Bowmen kept rolling in the third quarter. The 6-foot-9 Kurahara scored six points in the first 4 minutes and 9 seconds of the period and Johnson and senior Alex Castaneda each drilled a three-pointer to help Sherwood open a 36-23 advantage at the end of the quarter.

Sensing the conference title within their grasp, the Bowmen seemed to turn up the intensity even more in the final stanza.

Liberty was able to score just two points in the fourth quarter, both coming on foul shots. At the other end of the court, Johnson scored eight points in the period to help Sherwood pull away for the 50-25 win, igniting postgame victory celebration.

“This is really nice for the kids,” Sherwood coach Tony Merrill said. “It’s been one of the goals since the beginning of the year. And it was a real challenge for us. There are a lot of good teams in the league.”

Included in the Bowmen postgame celebration was former Bowmen basketball standout Tyson Christie, who was a member of the 2006 Sherwood league championship squad.

by: DAN BROOD - ALL TOGETHER NOW -- Members of the Sherwood basketball team gather with friends following their NWOC title-clinching win over Liberty. “He came and talked to us at practice,” Lawrence said. “That really inspired us.”

Johnson scored his game-high 15 points on a 6-for-12 shooting night from the field with a pair of three-pointers. He also pulled down seven rebounds.

Kurahara had 14 points and eight rebounds. Kitto had seven points and seven rebounds. Junior Ben Milligan had four steals and three assists in the win.

Sherwood, as a team, made 20 of 47 shots from the field while also outrebounding Liberty by a 29-20 margin.

Sophomores Blake Walker and Jacob Mast led the Falcons with eight points apiece.

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