St. Helens boys fall short against talented Wilsonville on Tuesday
The St. Helens boys basketball team knew it was in for a tough fight on Tuesday.
Facing top-ranked Wilsonville at Wilsonville High School in both teams' Northwest Oregon Conference opener, the Lions saw the Wildcats start fast, build a big halftime lead and roll to an 83-31 victory.
"Wilsonville's a heck of a team. They play exceptional defense," said St. Helens senior post Parker Miller, who led his team with 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field (including four 3-pointers, three of them in the fourth quarter). "They kept denying the ball and denying any pass we tried to make into the lane."
With the loss — the team's second straight — No. 31 St. Helens fell to 0-1 in league play and 2-8 overall. The top-ranked Wildcats, meanwhile, won for the third straight time and improved to 1-0 in NWOC play and 10-2 overall.
At the start of Tuesday's game, Wilsonville's Dakota Reber seemed to live above the rim.
Reber, a 6-foot-6 junior post/wing, threw down a barrage of dunks early in the first half and his efforts helped fuel Wilsonville's big Tuesday win.
"It was all about being at the right place at right time and great passes from my teammates," said Reber, who finished with 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field (including two 3-pointers). "They wanted to come in and try to slow the game down and we kept playing our game, which really made a difference."
The Wildcats were at their best at the start of Tuesday's game, with Reber seemingly getting airborne before the Lions defense could get down the floor. His success was no doubt due to some flashy ball movement from the Wildcat offense headed by senior point guard Jack Roche. Roche was an offensive sparkplug in the first quarter, setting the table for both Reber and Sam Westing, as well as contributing five of his 13 points and making three crucial assists.
St. Helens managed just one "3" from Gavin Knoke, another hoop by Hunter Wetherbee and a Miller foul shot as the Wildcats amassed a 23-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.
St. Helens coach Zach Wahlder yelled "Keep your hands up!" to his players at the beginning of the second quarter and the Lions' defense started the period energetically, forcing a couple ill-advised shots from the Wilsonville offense.
However, with just under five minutes left in the quarter, Reber blew the top off the roof on an alley-oop dunk assisted by Roche.
Westing was a force to be reckoned with all night, too, consistently finding his way to the rim for easy lay-ups. Westing was almost perfect from the field, making 8 of 9 shots from the field in the game, leading all scorers with 17 points.
Miller added another 3-pointer in the second period, while teammate Chris Beatty added a "3" and a free throw for four points, but the Lions fell behind 43-15 at the break.
After half, the St. Helens defense played another strong two minutes of ball and forced four early turnovers, but the Lions were matched by a solid Wildcat defense that forced 27 turnovers on the night and refused to let St. Helens claw its way back into the game.
With league play now underway, the Wildcats are determined to put together another strong NWOC run.
"If we ... keep focused and play our basketball, no matter the team we play, we have a really good shot at making a run come playoff time," Reber said.
While St. Helens struggled with its scoring and turnovers, Wilsonville could not figure out how to stop Miller. Miller lit up of the scorebook from beyond the arc, hitting four 3-pointers, some of which ranged close to 30 feet.
"Shooting from the outside is not my game," he said. "I score most of my points in the paint, but tonight, because of their defense, I was forced to shoot out there."
Despite the loss, Miller and the Lions vowed to keep learning and improving.
"It's a learning experience. Take what we can and move on. There's nothing more you can do in these type of games," Miller said.
In addition to Reber, Roche and Westing's numbers, Keegan Shivers added 11 for Wilsonville. For St. Helens, after Miller's 13, Beatty added six and Kyle Gunderson five.
Next up, Wilsonville will play at Hillsboro High School at 7:15 p.m. Friday, where the Spartans will try to avenge a tough 60-22 loss in last year's match-up. After that, the Wildcats will host La Salle at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
St. Helens will look to bounce back against cross-county rival Scappoose at 7:15 p.m. Friday at St. Helens High School, then play at Parkrose at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.