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The Timberwolves build a big lead, then hang on in nonleague win over the Falcons.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Liberty's Aidan Reitzug attacks the Tualatin defense during the Falcons' game with the Timberwolves Friday night, Jan. 10, at Liberty High School.Welcoming the Tualatin Timberwolves of the Three Rivers League on Friday, Jan. 10, the Liberty Falcons had a good showing of fans and provided an ideal atmosphere in their impressive gymnasium. However, it was Tualatin that put forth the performance on the court as they handled Liberty 56-45, improving to 6-6, while dropping the Falcons to an identical 6-6 record.

The first quarter was a defensive struggle, with Tualatin leading 12-8 at the conclusion. The Timberwolves then reeled off 13 consecutive points to open the second, including a couple highlight slams from Senior swingman John Miller, helping the Timberwolves to a 25-8 lead and what looked to be a potential route.

"The first few minutes were very slow," Timberwolves head coach Todd Jukkala said. "But then we started opening up our pressure and getting some things in transition."

Liberty was able to cut the lead to 26-17 in the second quarter, but Tualatin held a 30-17 halftime edge and seemed well in control.

Needing a spark against the size advantage of the Wolves, the Falcons employed a full-court press in the second half which allowed them to claw their way back into the game. In the fourth quarter, Liberty had slashed the lead all the way down to 39-31 and the home fans began to come alive, sensing a huge comeback.

"They committed to that zone defense and full-court press," Jukkala said. "I thought we had some trouble with that. We got some open looks, but just didn't knock them down."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Liberty's Joey Abelsen (left) dribbles around a pick set by Tyler Rockwell (right) during the Falcons' game with the Timberwolves Friday night, Jan. 10, at Liberty High School.Tualatin never let Liberty come all the way back, however. Utilizing their size and getting some timely buckets from Sophomore guard Noah Ogoli, the Wolves pushed their lead back to double digits and remained in control until the final horn.

"Our guards handled the press very well," Miller said. "We got the ball up the court, got into our offense, and got some points despite the press."

Despite the comeback, Jukkala was proud of the way his team handled themselves in the wake of a run that might've rattled a lesser group.

"We had a double digit lead most of the game, then they cut it to six," he said. "I thought our guys responded well. We're not a real experienced team so games like this are important. I thought we finished well, our shot selection was better, we made important free throws, and we got some stops defensively."

And what did Miller think was the primary factor to the Timberwolves' win?

"The key was knowing that we had faith in our defense and our offense," Miller said. "We paid attention to what our coach had to say, then it was all about coming out and executing."

The Falcons next head to Sherwood for their league opener Wednesday, Jan. 15, with the Bowmen. Five of their next six games will be road games, so letting the opportunity for a home victory over a lower-ranked non-league opponent stings.

Meanwhile the Timberwolves host Lake Oswego Tuesday, Jan. 14, and like Liberty, their schedule is road heavy for the near future, with five of their next seven away from home. But unlike the Falcons, Tualatin moves forward with the momentum of a solid road win against a higher-ranked opponent.

Miller led Tualatin with 12 points, Sophomore guard Malik Ross scored 11 points, and Ogoli added 10 points.

Liberty Junior wing Zane Bernhard led all scorers with 15 points, and Senior wing Aidan Reitzug tallied 11 points.

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