La Salle Prep boys struggle to keep pace with No. 1 Churchill, fall 82-55
CORVALLIS -- There wasn't anything that the La Salle Prep Falcons did on the basketball court Wednesday that the Churchill Lancers didn't do better.
From scoring and rebounding to defense and all the little things that make a difference in the playoffs, the Lancers were the better team.
Churchill's Brian Goracke scored a game-high 24 points to lead five players in double figures as the top-ranked Lancers rolled to an 82-55 blowout win over La Salle Prep in Wednesday's OSAA Class 5A boys' basketball quarterfinals at Gill Coliseum.
Kaelen O'Neil and Isaiah Wallace added 15 points each to help send the Lancers (22-4) into the semifinals for the third season in a row and will face Midwestern League-rival Willamette (20-5) at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
La Salle's Justin North finished with 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds, and Jace Norton added 13 for the Falcons (18-9), who will turn around and face Thurston in Thursday's 9 a.m. elimination game.
"Churchill is No. 1 for a reason," Falcons coach Sean Christensen said. "They're good. I don't know what else to say.
"They did what they should have done as the No. 1 seed against us. Did I think we could have played better? Yeah, I think we could have played better, but it's tough to match-up with them."
The Lancers had it all -- size, strength, speed, depth, and a knack for turning defense into offense -- which was reflected in the final score as well as all of the other major statistical categories.
Churchill shot 56.9 percent (33 for 58) from the field to La Salle's 42.0 percent (21 for 50), and also made one from 3-pointer (4-3) than La Salle made, made two made free throws (12-10), had a 35-23 advantage in rebounds, a 14-9 edge in assists, and had nine turnovers to the Falcons' 10.
The Lancers also had the edge in points in the paint (52-36), points off turnovers (18-11), second-chance points (14-13), fast-break points (6-2), and bench scoring (26-18).
In other words, the beating Churchill put on La Salle was about as severe and complete as a beating gets at this stage of the playoffs.
"I was happy with how the majority of our kids performed today," Lancers coach Kelly Bokn said. "We had a couple of kids who didn't show up, but fortunately we have enough players that when a couple of kids don't come and give you their 'A' game, some other guys pick it up."
One of La Salle's few bright spots came when Norton converted a three-point play to give the Falcons their only lead of the game at 5-4 with 5:10 to play in the first quarter.
Ten seconds later, Goracke, Churchill's 6-foot-4 transfer from Monroe, hit a jumper from the right side, touching off a run that saw the Lancers outscore La Salle 15-8 in the final five minutes of the first quarter to take a 19-13 lead.
Next came a 14-0 Churchill run to open the second quarter that saw the Lancers go 6 for 6 from the field with a pair Wallace 3-pointers, pushing the lead to 33-13 and effectively breaking La Salle's spirit with 5:13 remaining in the first half.
"The first quarter, we hung in there and were down six and it was still a good game," Norton said. "Then Churchill went on that huge run and it was really hard to come back from that.
"They really pressured us defensively, we had some turnovers, and they just ran out and got some easy dunks, easy lay-ups, and other easy points."
Churchill closed the third quarter on a 17-7 run to make it 68-37, and eventually pushed the lead to as many as 33 points when Wallace scored on a lay-up to make it 79-46 with 3:45 to play in the fourth.
"Obviously, it's a disappointment, because we definitely wanted to win," said North, who scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the second half. "Even though everybody else made Churchill the favorite, we definitely thought we could beat them coming in."
What could the Falcons have done differently that would have given them a better chance?
"We just had to come out with a better start," North said. "I think we were a little timid, being in Gill Coliseum and playing on such a big stage, whereas Churchill was ready and that's why the match-up went the way it did from the start."
Norton agreed that the Falcons' slow start was critical.
"We just needed to come out stronger," he said. "I think we kind of got caught up in the moment. We were passive, not aggressive, and we let them be the aggressors where they just took the ball from us when we needed to be stronger with it."
La Salle played some of its best basketball this season when Norton had open looks from beyond the three-point line or was able to create off the dribble, but the Lancers limited those options Wednesday.
"They were pretty good at guarding me," said Norton, who finished with 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field, including 2-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. "They were really good, all-around defenders, and they had really good help defense.
"It was just hard to drive and not see a second or third body coming at you, so it was hard to get anything off the dribble and get anywhere. Our hope was to just drive the ball and kick it to open shooters. We had some open 3s that just didn't fall, and that was what we needed to happen if we were going to have a game."
Ejim Akuma and Samaje Morgan finished with 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists each for the Lancers.
The Falcons got a nice lift from Jake Owens, who had 12 points, five rebounds, and a steal in 14 minutes off the bench. Nolan Grogan added four points and seven rebounds, and Alex Boyd and Rudy Massaad chipped in four points each.
"We're not a bad team," Christensen said. "I mean, we made the tournament. But Churchill had five guys in double figures and they scored 80 points when we had been giving up 45 a game the last half of league play.
"We were doing a good job defensively and Churchill was just hitting on all cylinders, making 3s and we couldn't stay in front of any of their players."
Can anybody beat Churchill?
"I think somebody is going to have to have a really, really good game plan to beat them," Christensen said. "And match-up with them."