Beavers, Wildcats ready for 6A quarterfinal clash
A fourth battle between rivals seems fitting, doesn't it?
Beaverton and Westview's final clash in what's been a two-year waged war in the middle of the Metro League will decide the powers' respective Class 6A state tournament fate.
Matched up in the 6A quarterfinals after the No. 4 Beavers routed Southridge 68-37 and the No. 5 Wildcats escaped a tough Tigard team at home, both Beaverton and Westview have a chance at reaching the 6A semis at the Chiles Center on Friday, but they'll have to go through each other to get there. Tip time is 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
"It's almost ridiculous how many times we've played (Westview) the past two years," Beaverton senior point guard Cole Johanson said with a laugh. "Beating a good team three times is hard enough, let alone four times. But, I honestly don't care who we play. The way we're playing right now — the way we're attacking the rim, moving the ball, playing defense — I feel like we're the best team in the state. I know they want to get us, but I feel like we have the competitive mindset advantage after beating them three times already. We're just gonna focus on us, play our game and the results will come."
This will the seventh time the two teams have played the past two seasons. And since most of the main protagonists such as Westview's Mason Elliott, Said Ali, Zach Schmerber, Beaverton's Johanson, Hunter Sweet, Carson Crawford and Jamie Sweatman have all played key roles on the varsity level since they were sophomores, that's nine times total in three years. Beaverton has won the past four meetings including three this year — two during Metro and once at the Les Schwab Invitational.
"It's hard to beat the same team four times in one season, so we definitely have to bring our 'A' game because we know they're gonna bring theirs," Sweatman. "There's a lot more at stake. The emotions are gonna be a lot higher. As long as we keep our mental toughness and overcome adversity throughout the game, we should be fine."
Dating back to the middle school level when Elliott, Ali, Johanson and Crawford played against each other suiting up for their high school's pipeline programs, Westview and Beaverton share no secrets. The plays have been the same for years. The schemes are set, the personnel is identical, only this time the plot will play out with much higher stakes.
Acquainted with with each other? Yes. But sick of seeing each other? No. Westview lost each of the three matchups by a combined 10 points. Each game could have titled toward either side. A play here, a made free throw there, a three-pointer that rims in instead of out and Beaverton's 3-0 record against their archrival doesn't seem as lopsided. Best believe the Wildcats are hell-bent on atoning for those close calls, especially after Beaverton won Metro for the second straight season.
Of course, only one team can advance. The degree of separation between the two powers is so narrow, so tight that either team coming out on the winning end on Wednesday wouldn't be a shock. Beaverton is shooting the ball at an impressive clip, having made at least 11 threes in each of their first two postseason contests. The offense is running at full speed and clicking at the right time. Jake Estep has been a huge boon on the wing after transferring over from Tigard. The junior forward has taken on the scoring load for Beaverton and stepped up big both in the playoffs and during all three of the Beaver-Wildcat clashes. Westview's versatility in playing different styles and paces is imperative. The Wildcats' starting five with Elliott, Ali, Schmerber, Zach Sly and Jack Poling provides playmaking, outside shooting, two-way intensity and an ability to raise their respective games to the magnitude of the moment. And, off the bench Westview sports the likes of Trevor Laakso, Isaac Overson and Jalen Ogadhoh who have all shined at times when called upon by head coach Pat Coons.
"Westview is a great team," Sweatman said. "We just have to grind in practice. I know our coaching staff is gonna give us a great gameplan to go up against them. I trust them. I trust our guys. We'll find a way to pull it out."
In terms of state tournament familiarity, Westview holds the distinct advantage. In the 6A quarterfinals against Jefferson last year, Elliott and Ali both made huge shots both in the fourth quarter and overtime that forced the game to a second overtime session. And while the Wildcats ultimately lost to the loaded Demos and were bounced in the consolation bracket the next day, there is no substitution for that state tourney experience. From the opening moments before the tip, to the first couple of minutes of action, to the intensity of play, to even the smaller things like the shooting backdrops of the Chiles Center or getting around the arena, Westview is familiarized is what's in store.
"We got the experience there last year," Elliott said. "We'll go in there ready to go. It won't be a surprise."
On the other hand, Beaverton's confidence in beating a team three times already has bearing, maybe more so mentally than anything. In those late-game moments, be it Estep hitting a big free throw at the LSI, Johanson pulling off a left-handed pirouette move for the go-ahead and-one three-point play or Sweet reversing home a layup with precious seconds left to fend off a fierce Wildcat fourth quarter comeback, the Beavers can take comfort knowing they've found ways to win in tough circumstances.
The contest's outcome, just days before tip-off, feels like a toss-up, though both sides are confident in theirs chances at advancing to Friday.
"I have no worries that we'll come out and play well," Estep said. "We just need to do what we do best: attack the rim, shoot the ball when we're open and get everyone involved."
Dan Brood of the Tualatin Times contributed to this story.