Lions blow out Century and Grant in second half to make the quarters

by: VERN UYETAKE - Ryan Shearmire wrestles away a rebound in the Lions' second-round playoff victory over Grant. The West Linn boys cleared their first significant hurdle in their quest for a second-straight state title last week and they did it in style.

Facing a dangerous and almost certainly under-ranked Grant squad, the Lions blitzed the Generals in the second half en route to a 76-51 victory, advancing to the quarterfinals at the Moda Center.

West Linn had faced Grant in the preseason, winning that game handily as well. However, the Generals were missing their top player, Deiondre Bird, at the time.

Bird had missed a good chunk of the season with an injury and, as a result, a few losses saw the Generals slide to No. 16 in the power rankings.

“They definitely scared me a little. It was kind of an unlucky draw but, now that we're past it, I think it was good for us to have a test like that,” coach Eric Viuhkola said.

The Lions faced Grant in last year's quarterfinals, knocking off the Generals by one point thanks to a pair of clutch free throws from Jarrod Howard in the closing seconds.

Grant hung with West Linn through the first half of Saturday's game as the Lions looked to slow them down.

“We defended really well. We knew they had three guys who they wanted to isolate and go one-on-one against us so we wanted to do a good job with help defense,” Viuhkola said.

Payton Pritchard guided the offense and hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the half to push West Linn's advantage to 12 points.

The Lions then switched to a zone in the second half and blew open the game midway through the third quarter.

West Linn went on an extended 27-3 run, threatening to go up by 40 points against what had been one of the hottest teams in the state heading into the game.

“We knew they struggled against a zone and we were able to get some steals and go the other way,” Viuhkola said.

Everyone got in on the action. Pritchard, Anthony Mathis, Hayden Coppedge and Ryan Shearmire all scored in double figures.

Mathis had 14 of his 19 points in the second half as Grant looked to slow down Pritchard and the point guard became more of a distributor.

Meanwhile, West Linn's defense continued to be stellar, leading to easy baskets on the other end as the Lions quickly put the Generals away.

The victory came on the heels of another lopsided playoff win. The Lions opened up the postseason at home drubbing Century 80-39.

Once again, the Lions took a half to get warmed up, only leading 26-18 at the break.

However, when West Linn heated up, the game quickly got out of hand.

“We just need to get our feet under us again after having eight days off,” Viuhkola said.

After a slightly cold first two quarters, the Lions caught fire in the second half and, again, virtually the entire roster got in on the action.

Ten different players scored for West Linn and the Lions were led by reserve CJ Sitton. Sitton scored 17 points, the bulk of which came on four consecutive possessions where he hit four straight 3-pointers.

West Linn now gears up for the state tournament, which kicks off Thursday.

The Lions will play in the opener of the tournament against Central Catholic at 1:30 p.m. West Linn topped the Rams in the championship game last year and, like the Generals, Central Catholic is perhaps an under-ranked team, overcoming some early injuries to run the table in the Mount Hood Conference.

“They're very athletic and they're a team of winners. It will definitely be a big-time game,” Viuhkola said.

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