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West Linn boys win to stay a game behind Three Rivers League-leading Lake Oswego

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - West Linn sophomore guard Micah Garrett makes a pass during his team's 61-44 victory at Canby High School on Friday.West Linn's boys basketball team knows it has no margin for error these days.

The Lions have already taken two losses in Three Rivers League play this year and know they can't afford another if they hope to extend their string of TRL titles to five this season. They played like it on Friday, crushing Canby 61-44 at Canby High School to stay within a single game of league-leading Lake Oswego.

"The first half, we had a lot of energy coming out, we shared the ball a lot and definitely had a good game to come out after our Tigard loss," said West Linn senior Jalen Thompson. "We definitely needed a game where we came out strong and played well. In the second half, we came out with a little less energy, which we shouldn't have done and kind of let them back in. We have to bring it for a full game."

"We played really hard, and the other part is that we really shared the ball," said Lions' coach Tyler Toney said. "(It's) passing the ball, playing hard. Our motto is 'We over me,' and we don't always do that. It's really hard to do that and it's really hard to get high school kids to understand that, but we're getting to the point where they realize it's we over me."

With the win, the sixth-ranked Lions improved to 7-2 in league play and 12-7 overall, while the No. 38 Cougars saw their two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-7 in league and 6-13 overall.

The Cougars kept things close early, but after a few minutes in the first quarter, the Lions began to dominate with a scoring stretch that saw West Linn take control. After Canby junior Rizdin Miller sank a 3-pointer to give Canby its only lead of the night, West Linn senior Jalen Thompson answered in kind, draining a "three" of his own.

Junior Drayton Caoile had seven points in the streak, sophomore Bryson Crockett sank another 3-pointer and 14 West Linn points later, West Linn controlled the game 24-14 at the end of the first quarter. Canby senior leader Wade Brewer scored five points at the end of the quarter to stem some of the bleeding.

Things got worse for Canby in the second quarter, too. While neither team got anything going right away, West Linn took off on a 15-point scoring streak to further expand its lead. Senior Ahmir McGee scored eight points for West Linn, Thompson added five more to the mix and senior Keishon Dawkins added the final bucket in the string.

Again, it was Canby's Brewer who broke the streak, draining a 3-point basket and two free throws to end the quarter. As the teams were leaving the court, West Linn's Dawkins got hit with a technical foul, and Canby came back with two free throws. Despite that, at the end of the first half, it was Canby trailing 43-19.

Coming out of halftime though, Canby found its groove. In an impressive display of defense, the Cougars held the explosive Lions to just eight points in the third quarter, outscored West Linn 12-8 and closed within 51-31.

Brewer sank the two free throws to start the quarter and also hit a 3-pointer, Canby senior Skyler Castleman hit a "three" as well, and senior Antonio Arredondo and Miller also sank a pair of baskets.

It was all about dictating the pace, according to Canby senior Jacob Huggins.

"We just did what coach told us to do. We needed to be patient, wait for open opportunities, take it to the hole and be aggressive," Huggins said.

And it wasn't just that the team was determined to dictate the pace — the Cougars were determined to hold the Lions to single digits.

"In the second half, we were determined to dictate the pace," Canby coach Craig Evans said. "We did that. Our goal coming out of halftime was a single-digit quarter by them. If you look in their scorebook, I don't think they have had a single-digit quarter very many times. That was us, that was what we wanted to do. I am very proud of our guys in that second half. They didn't quit, and they very easily could have."

Canby continued to battle back in the final stanza. Arredondo hit another two baskets to help the Cougars keep pace with the Lions.

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