The Falcons prove themselves among the states best

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Proud, but disappointed, La Salle players find it tough to hide their emotions during the trophy presentation following Saturdays championship game. La Salles state runner-up finish is the best since 1986.CORVALLIS — A tremendous season came to an end one win short of their goal for the La Salle Prep boys basketball team Saturday night, as the second-ranked Falcons lost to top-ranked Philomath 48-39 in the championship final of the Class 4A State Championship Tournament.

Despite losing most of last year’s team to graduation, the Falcons finished their 2013-14 campaign with a 22-4 record, their only losses to Philomath twice (45-32 in preseason and in the state final), to Tri-Valley Conference rival Gladstone (45-43) and to 2014 Class 3A state champion Valley Catholic (42-35).

This is the first time a La Salle boys basketball team has advanced to a state-title game since 1986, when the Falcons won their fourth state title in six seasons. A senior-based La Salle team placed third at state last year, beating Philomath 45-43 in the third-place final.

The Falcons didn’t have an answer for Philomath guard Ben DeSaulnier on Saturday. The 6-3 senior was on fire, scoring 30 of the Warriors’ 48 points, hauling down 11 rebounds and stealing the sphere four times. He turned three of his steals into momentum building dunks at the other end of the floor.

DeSaulnier was 11-of-21 from the field, with three 3-point baskets.

And while DeSaulnier proved next to impossible to stop on offense, he and his teammates got into the Falcon passing lanes, forcing turnovers and causing the Falcons to struggle to get much going on offense.

DeSaulnier hit a three-pointer to put Philomath up 3-2 early in the game, and the Warriors led the rest of the way.

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - La Salle senior Luke Kolln is pursued by Philomath defenders as he brings the ball up the floor in Saturday nights championship game at Gill Coliseum.Philomath rallied around DeSaulnier to build a 29-15 lead by halftime, and it was an uphill battle for La Salle the rest of the way.

Still, the Falcons never quit. And when Ryan Cavanagh hit a 3-pointer with 1:49 left to play, it was a seven-point game, with La Salle trailing 43-36.

But DeSaulnier silenced any hopes of a Falcon comeback on Philomath’s ensuing possession, when he went coast-to-coast for a layup, making it 45-36 Philomath.

La Salle had 24 turnovers in the game, and the Falcons struggled to get their shots to drop, going 14-40 (.350) from the field, with 17 misses from 3-point land.

Keeston Smith scored a team-high 17 points in the losing effort, hitting 7-of-8 shots from the floor, with two 3-pointers. But the rest of La Salle’s team found the basket on only 7-of-32 attempts, for an ice-cold .218 shooting percentage.

Philomath finished the season with an overall record of 24-3, with early-season losses to Gladstone (46-45) and Seaside (41-38) and a 40-36 loss to Central on Jan. 21. The Warriors ended their season with 15 straight wins.

La Salle advanced to Saturday’s final through a 49-29 rout of eighth-ranked Tillamook in Friday’s semifinals, after winning an overtime barnburner from Cottage Grove, 61-58, in the quarterfinals.

Defense and sharp shooting were the keys in breaking open the game with Tillamook. The Falcons went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter to put an until-then close game out of reach.

Tillamook was held to just 10 points and four field goals, as the Falcons built a 22-10 halftime advantage, and coasted home from there.

The Cheesemakers made only 28 percent of their field goals in the game, thanks to the aggressive defensive play of La Salle guards.

Reece Wible and Keeston Smith packed the one-two punch for the Falcons on offense. Wible was on fire, hitting 6-of-9 shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers. He scored a game-high 18 points on the night.

Smith was a force to be reckoned with close to the basket, scoring 12 points and claiming 11 rebounds.

Matt D’Amore was the hero in the overtime win over Cottage Grove, banking in a 3-pointer at the horn at the end of regulation to knot the score at 51-51 and send the game into the extra period.

Luke Kolln made two layups early in the overtime to put the Falcons in the driver’s seat, and they held on for the hard fought win.

The contest was a battle from wire-to-wire, with 12 lead changes and five ties. Neither team led by more than seven points.

Rebounding was pivotal for the Falcons. Wible hauled down 10 rebounds to lead La Salle to a 33-18 advantage on the backboards.

Wible was also huge on offense, hitting 5-of-9 shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers. He finished with a team-high 15 points on the night.

Keeston Smith added 12 points, on 5-of-7 shooting; Kolln scored 10 points, connecting on 5-of-9 shots from the floor.

The Falcons were a hot-handed 25-of-46 (.543) from the field, with six 3-pointers.

Cottage Grove (20-8) went on to lose to North Valley 68-39 in the consolation final, after defeating Seaside 48-44 in the consolation semifinal.

La Salle had two players make the Class 4A State Championship All-Tournament first team. Reece Wible was a unanimous selection and he was joined on the first all-star unit by Keeston Smith.

Smith was among the state tournament leaders in scoring (13.7 ppg), field goal shooting percentage (.680, 17-of-25) and rebounding (8.0 rebounds per game).

Wible was a tournament leader in scoring (12.7 ppg), three-point shooting (8-for-14, .571) and rebounding (7.0 rpg).

Luke Kolln averaged 3.3 assists, second highest for the tournament.

La Salle’s team was the state tournament leader in overall field goal shooting percentage (56-for-123, .455) and 3-point shooting percentage (18-of-48, .375).

The Falcons should be tough again next year, with the loss of only five seniors from this year’s 15-player state tournament roster — Luke Kolln (6-0 guard), Thomas Callahan (6-4 post), Ryan Cavanagh (6-2 post), Grant Cameron (6-0 wing) and Chris Dowhaniuk (5-10 wing).

Expected to return are: juniors Keeston Smith (6-7 post), Reece Wible (6-6 wing), Valois Gashongore (6-0 wing), Mike Duarte (5-9 wing), Matt D’Amore (5-8 wing), Michael Edwards (5-6 guard) and Brandon Falk (6-5 post); sophomores Andrew Lam (5-6 guard) and Ben Sisul (6-3 post); and freshman Matt Berger (6-5 post).

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