The Lions come from behind in a trio of games, losing only to Central Catholic

The West Linn boys basketball team has had a bad early habit of digging itself an early hole against qualify opponents. But the Lions have also shown plenty of resiliency and battled back on every occasion.

In last week's tournament at Central Catholic, West Linn trailed in both of its games, rallying to knock off Tigard before falling to the host Rams in the final.

Against the Tigers, West Linn struggled early and trailed by four points at the half. The Lions failed to get into a rhythm offensively and that pattern continued early in the third period.

West Linn trailed 40-31 before starting its comeback.

The key moment in the game happened when Ty Cleland made a driving lay-up with the Lions down by seven and a Tigard defender was whistled for a block.

Tigard's coach was upset with the call and was given a technical foul. Cleland completed the three-point play and Anthony Mathis knocked down the pair of technical free throws. Mathis then drained a three-pointer, making it an eight-point possession which gave West Linn a one-point lead.

“We really felt good about how we played from that point,” coach Eric Viuhkola said.

The Lions didn't look back after that. West Linn scored 27 points in the third quarter to take a six-point lead and made some key plays down the stretch in a 61-53 victory.

Ryan Shearmire capped his strong night with a late steal and a dunk. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Lions.

That moved West Linn into the finals against Central Catholic in a rematch of a state tournament game last year.

Once again, the Lions found themselves in trouble early on. West Linn scored just two points in the first quarter and, early in the second period, the Lions were down 21-4.

“We have a lot of guys who want to take on the burden themselves and we just took a ton of contested shots,” Viuhkola said.

But the Lions hung tough and whittled away at the lead, getting it down to single digits by the half.

West Linn continued to chip away and focused on being efficient on offense. The Lions cut the lead to six points by the end of the third quarter and, with less than two minutes to play, completely erased the 17-point deficit.

West Linn had the ball with a chance to take the lead but missed an open shot. Central Catholic then executed in the final 90 seconds and scored a pair of late lay-ups in a 65-57 victory.

“We're showing we have the ability to come back but we shouldn't be looking for moral victories. We shouldn't be in a position to be down that much,” Viuhkola said.

Shearmire had 18 points again to lead the scoring while Hayden Coppedge added 14 and Mathis scored 13.

West Linn would get back in the win column on Monday against a large West Albany team. The Bulldogs featured three players in the frontcourt over 6'6” but the Lions continued their streak of not being out-rebounded all season.

West Linn trailed again in the opening minutes, falling behind 9-2 before quickly righting the ship.

The Lions rallied to take a lead at the end of the first quarter and then caught fire.

Freshman point guard Payton Pritchard had a breakout performance, leading the way with 22 points.

“He really played under control and shot well from the outside,” Viuhkola said.

West Linn outscored West Albany 27-9 in the second quarter which proved to be the difference in the game.

The Bulldogs did their best to hang with the Lions but West Linn dictated the pace of the game from start to finish and the team continued to stay hot from the field.

West Linn has navigated a difficult preseason schedule and things don't get much easier. The Lions will face North Salem on Friday before opening play at the annual Les Schwab Invitational against Sprague after Christmas.

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