Scoreboards can be cruel and deceiving.

West Linn 76, Westview 61 reads like a walkover win for the defending 6A boys’ state champions, another blowout brought on by gifted point guard Payton Pritchard and his band of bouncy teammates.

Yes, Pritchard and West Linn categorically controlled the fourth quarter, going on a 12-0 run that wasn’t stopped until Westview’s Alex Carrick hit one of two free throws with 3:00 left. West Linn held Westview scoreless for nearly four minutes in the final period, and let Pritchard make plays in the halfcourt that few guards in the state can pull off offensively.

But, considering the still remolding Wildcats outscored West Linn 24-11 in the second quarter, held a 39-34 halftime lead and trailed the Lions just 54-50 going into the fourth, the final score gets placed in a different context. There’s no picking at straws, or trying to find a false silver lining in the defeat.

Westview — who dropped three straight games prior to the West Linn contest— was considerably better against the Lions than what it had shown in the preseason. With an animated, chirpy Wildcat student section at its back, Westview played with more fire, emotion and acumen. And, with Metro League action right around the corner, the Wildcats chalked up the loss as a moral victory, something to expand on starting next Friday against Beaverton. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview wing Cameron Hill rises high for a mid-range jumper versus West Linn in the second quarter.

“We picked it up today and had great intensity,” said senior guard Ben Larsen. “We have to play like that every night. If we keep doing that and bring it every night, we can beat anybody in the state on any court, anywhere.”

After getting outplayed and polished off by Pritchard in the first quarter, Westview swayed the non-league trial with a second quarter effort that Larsen hopes can be bottled up and saved for later use.

Twice in the second quarter senior point guard David Coffey picked West Linn clean, pushed the ball into the front court, pumped the brakes in transition and found teammates for scores on the secondary break. Coffey found a streaking Mitch Kekel with a high-difficulty bounce pass for two that gave Westview a 25-24 lead with 5:15 left, and spooned a pass to a trailing Carrick for a three at the top of the key.

Larsen said primarily Westview’s second-quarter team defense stepped up big-time in trying to hamper Pritchard’s pounding drives to the cup. The offense began flowing too, which kept the Wildcat throng in-tune with the game and created a sizable homecourt advantage. Playing just its second home game of the season, Westview fed off its fans’ emotion and let it fuel the feverish comeback.

“A lot of it was the crowd,” said Carrick. “It was just nice being at home. There’s a lot of momentum. We were getting stops on defense, and that’s what carried us on to our offense. We were just feeling ourselves. The crowd was getting into it. We were all getting into it.”

Carrick caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 10 consecutive points on a range of power drives to the hole from the elbow, contested threes and free throws. Down 32-30 after a West Linn 5-0 run, the junior forward deployed a left-handed inside-out dribble to get himself in rhythm, shuffled to his left and canned the three from the right angle to go back up 33-32.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview senior wing Mitch Kekel puts up a perimeter jumper in the second quarter against West Linn.

Larsen stroked a left-corner three after a Carrick kickou,t and Bryce Johnson buried a jumper to put Westview ahead 39-32 with 30 seconds left in the first half. Johnson scored seven points in the second quarter, all on outside jumpers.

“We started playing how we need to play,” said Larsen, who finished with six points. “The past three games we were kind of playing as individuals more, rather than playing as a team. I thought today we played together as a team and let the offense come to us. We weren’t forcing things. That was definitely a positive thing that we can take out of this.”

Westview’s ability to throw extra defenders at Pritchard with heads-up helpside defense transitioned to the offensive end where the Wildcats concocted open shots out of their motion offense. More importantly, Westview hit the unobstructed looks after generously moving the ball around the Lion defense.

“We fed off that good defensive pressure, and that led to our offense,” said sophomore point guard Abishek Venkatesh. “Payton’s a great guard. We just had to play up on him, play good team defense. We didn’t play individual defense. If someone was in trouble, we went and helped.”

“We don’t have one superstar on this team,” added Carrick. “We don’t have someone that’s going to go get a bucket every time. But, we have a lot of athletic guards that can drive and make plays. Then, we have shooters who can make the shot when we kick. It’s good for us to run, drive-and-kick and get people open.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview senior point guard David Coffey dries to hole against West Linns Payton Pritchard.

West Linn opened the second half on a 7-0 run that helped it regain a 41-39 lead with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. Larsen and Carrick answered with back-to-back threes to reclaim a 48-43, but the Lions replied with another 11-2 spurt to close the third with a 54-50 lead.

Carrick scored three points to start the fourth quarter, but Pritchard pulped Westview with six points and four assists during the deciding 12-0 final stanza spurt that put the Wildcats in a 68-54 gap with 2:43 to go.

“If you do one thing wrong, they’ll capitalize on every opportunity,” said Venkatesh of West Linn. “We had a couple miscues. We missed a couple shots, and when they happened they went on their big run. It’s hard to dig out of a hole like that.”

Cognizant of Kekel (17 points) and Carrick’s (22 points) combustible scoring ability, West Linn shadowed the Wildcat wings and positioned additional defenders in the paint to slam the door on previously open driving lanes. Westview never got closer than 11 points in the fourth. Plus, after scoring 24 points in the second quarter alone, the Wildcats only put up 22 in the second half.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview post Bryce Johnson tries to create seperation from a West Linn defender in the post.

“The shots didn’t fall, but I’m proud of my team,” said Carrick. “We kept fighting to the very end. That’s all that matters. We were playing hard against the best team in the state, so I’m proud.”

Larsen said Westview needs to keep playing as a concerted unit if it wants to throw their hat in the Metro League ring and maybe clinch one of the conference’s top three playoff spots. Thought to be toward the bottom of the talent-ladened league, the Wildcats are carrying a dark-horse disposition into next week.

“A lot of people are underestimating our team,” said Larsen. “I don’t think they know how good we can play. But, tonight I think we showed how can be. We’ve been rated fifth or sixth in Metro, but I think we can easily get first. I think we can beat Jesuit, Southridge, and Sunset. If we continue playing as a team, we can knock off some good teams and hopefully get in the top three spots.”

There’s plenty of quality teams in the Metro League, as there always in the basketball talent-rich Beaverton area. However, through the preseason, there hasn’t been a team that’s head-and-shoulders better than everyone else. The uncertainty about who will take the mantle as the Metro League’s best squad, should make for an entertaining month or so of high-intensity hoops.

“This is what we play for...league play,” added Carrick. “I think it’s totally wide open. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. There’s no huge team that’s going to go out and go undefeated.”

“If we play like we did tonight, with the same intensity, same fight and play really hard we cant take that to the next game,” said Venkatesh. “If we learn from our mistakes, I definitely think we can do well in Metro.”

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