West Linn boys win WLWV district battle over Wilsonville 64-51
Together, they've won six state championships in the past five seasons, they share membership in the same school district and they both feature largely revamped lineups for 2017-18.
On the same court for the first time in two years, the Lions and Wildcats turned in a playoff-worthy performance, with West Linn pulling away in the third period to forge a 64-51 non-league win at West Linn High School.
"We really got into it," said West Linn sophomore guard Bryson Crockett, who scored all nine of his points in the decisive third quarter. "It's our first game so we were a little nervous, but once we got to the second half, we did well."
"We definitely struggled in the first half, but then we went back to the locker room and talked about it," said junior point guard Drayton Caoile, who finished with 12 points in the win. "We talked about how that first half, they came out tougher than us and we had come out and hit them back. We had to be patient, but we had to keep pressuring them."
The Lions, on the cusp of two big tournaments (the King of the Bluegrass tournament in Kentucky and the Les Schwab Invitational), won their season opener to move to 1-0 overall. Wilsonville, meanwhile, lost for the first time this year and saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
While disappointed with the loss, the Wildcats — the two-time defending Class 5A state champions — appreciated the level of competition that Friday's game provided.
"It was a lot of fun but I wish we could have come out with the 'W,'" said Wilsonville senior guard Caleb Larsen, who scored 12 points in the loss. "I'd like to play them again."
"We just got gassed at the end. We couldn't keep up with them going up and down the floor," added senior post Zac Rossetti, who added 10 points in the loss. "We've just got to work harder in practice and run harder in practice, but I'm proud of how we played as a team tonight, and hopefully, we will just get better from this."
The Lions started quickly on Friday, getting six first-quarter points from Caoile and a three-pointer from senior Jalen Thompson as they pulled out to a 14-9 lead. The Wildcats, meanwhile, stayed close thanks to "threes" from both Rossetti and Larsen.
The two teams then punched and counter-punched their way through a 15-15 second quarter, with the Lions getting six points (including a three-pointer) from Thompson and five more from senior forward Keishon Dawkins, while the Wildcats answered with five points from junior Jack Roche and four each by Larsen and sophomore post Dakota Reber to stay within 29-24 at the half.
The Lions took over in the third, though, stitching together a 20-7 run over the first 5 minutes, 38 seconds of the half to lead 49-31. Crockett was as hot as could be in that stretch, hitting four straight shots in just 3:48, beginning with an inside hoop assisted by Dawkins, hitting a "three" off a Dawkins pass, scoring inside thanks to yet another Dawkins feed, and then rebounding his own miss to score and make it 42-28 with 3:43 still remaining in the period.
"We knew we needed to play through our 'bigs.' That really helped us get the lead," Crockett said. "We just needed to move the ball … but once we started moving it, we got better shots."
The Wildcats responded with a three-pointer from Reber after Crockett's last score, but the Lions came back with a Caoile drive, a fast break hoop from Micah Garrett assisted by Caoile and a Garrett "three" from the left corner to give the Lions their biggest lead at 49-31 with 2:22 to go in the period.
The Wildcats closed the frame with a Larsen three-pointer and a Rossetti fast break basket to make it 51-38 at the end of three, then carried that momentum into the fourth.
There, the Wildcats put together an 11-6 run over the first 3:50 of the stanza to close within 57-49 with 3:10 to go. Rossetti started that stretch with a reverse layin, Larsen took a Roche pass and buried a "three," Reber scored on a putback of his own miss, Rossetti connected at the end of a fast break and Larsen capped another break off a Roche pass to cut their team's deficit to 57-49 with 3:10 left on the clock.
But West Linn put the hammer down in the final 2:35, getting two Caoile foul shots, a Dawkins drive and a Dawkins three-pointer assisted by Thompson for the final 64-51 margin.
"We've been waiting for this long time, practicing every day — it was good to finally play," Caoile said. "They moved the ball around a lot, but we just had to pressure them. That was our game plan the whole time was to get up and down the court and make them play fast."
"I think that in the third quarter, our defense wasn't as good as it should have been and they had a little run," Larsen said.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats knew the competition was good for them as a program.
"West Linn is such a good team. They've been a great program for so long," Rossetti said. "This is a playoff-caliber team at West Linn again. West Linn-Wilsonville is always a good game. It's always fun to play over here."
Dawkins led all scorers with 17 points — eight in the fourth quarter — and Garrett added 14 for West Linn. Reber led the Wildcats with 14 and Roche had nine more.