Sherwood boys top Century to claim their title
HILLSBORO — Hard work.
Determination. Team unity. Commitment.
The Sherwood High School boys basketball team put them all together and came away with a conference championship.
And the Bowmen are pretty darn happy about it.
Sherwood, in its first year in the league, wrapped up sole possession of first place in the Pacific Conference standings by powering its way to a 66-49 win over Century in a conference contest played Friday at Century High School.
"Oh my gosh. Four years of just grinding and grinding. We got it," said smiling Sherwood senior Braden Thorn, who scored a game-high 20 points in Friday's game. "A new conference, and we set the tone. Sherwood's in the house, baby."
"Oh my gosh, this is amazing," Sherwood senior post Charlie Bulfinch said. "We've just been taking it game-by-game. We didn't really focus on the title at the start of the season, but it was in the back of our heads. We started thinking about it during the second half of league. We just put our head down and drove through."
"We've come a long way in just a few years, and I'm really proud of the kids, and the time and commitment they've put in. They put in a tremendous amount of hours," Sherwood coach Rahim Tufts said. "Dedication is a big thing. They're committed. They're invested. They love each other, and they know how much I love them. It means something to them."
With the win, Sherwood improved to 10-1 in conference play (19-5 overall), giving the Bowmen a two-and-a-half game lead over both Forest Grove and Newberg, who are tied for second place, with two rounds of league play to go.
"We all bond together. Our team motto is 'one team,' and that's true," Thorn said following the Bowmen's celebration. "Even these freshmen who are celebrating the championship with us, it's them, too, that won the league championship with us. "We all came along ways since we were younger. We've all been playing together for awhile, and we've all been in the gym for hours, and it's all paying off."
"It's just relationships," Bulfinch said of the key to winning the title. "Working hard every day in practice, always giving 100 percent."
Century, playing in front of a Senior Night crowd, moved to 5-6 in conference games (10-13 overall), putting the Jaguars in fourth place in the league standings.
"We just wanted to come out on Senior Night and end the season well. Our coach got us kind of riled up," Century junior guard Ikin Chan said. "We just competed harder, using more ball experience. I feel like, when we played them in Sherwood a couple of weeks ago, they just pushed us over. We wanted to play with more toughness tonight. We just wanted to show them that we're able to compete, and hang with them."
But that wasn't an easy task, going against a Bowmen squad that had its sights set on the conference championship.
Thorn helped Sherwood get off to a fast start to the contest, sinking two 3-point baskets, scoring 10 points and pulling down three rebounds in the opening period. Junior post Blake Jensen added four points in the quarter.
Century, keeping up the pace, got a 3-pointer and five points from sophomore guard Edy Essien and six points from junior forward Chance Sparks in the period, but Sherwood would claim a 17-11 lead going into the second quarter.
That's where the Jaguars tried to battle back. Century junior guard Jospin Mugisha opened the period with a 3-pointer, and Sparks followed with a basket on a drive to the hoop, trimming the lead to 17-16 with 7 minutes and 1 second left before halftime.
Sherwood responded — in a big way
Thorn made a free throw and sophomore guard Asher Krauel and senior guard Tyler Hix followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, quickly pushing the lead to 24-16 with 5:10 left in the period. Hix would make another 3-pointer later in the quarter, and senior Ryan Sandilands added a 3-pointer of his own, as the Bowmen would take a 33-24 halftime lead.
Sherwood would continue hitting from long range in the third quarter. Thorn sank a pair of 3-pointers, while scoring 10 points in the period. Sandilands would sink another 3-pointer, coming off an assist by junior guard Jamison Guerra, and Krauel would score six points, as the Bowmen upped their lead to 54-38 going into the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars, still fighting, tried to battle back early in the final stanza. Essien opened the period with a pair of free throws. He then sank a 3-pointer from the left corner, trimming the margin to 56-43 with 5:53 left in the game.
But, again, Sherwood answered back, as Krauel sank consecutive 3-pointers, both coming off assists by Guerra, upping the lead to 62-43 with 4:18 remaining.
From there, the Bowmen, getting follow-up baskets by Bulfinch and senior Cade Chidester, cruised to the 66-49 victory.
"We just had to go there and play harder than them," Thorn said. "We had the target on our backs. We've had the target on our backs since the first half of league. We knew we were going to get their best game, so we had to do better than them."
"It was their Senior Night, and we knew we were going to get their best game," Bulfinch said. "We were prepared. We were ready for anything."
Thorn had seven rebounds to go with his game-high 20 points. Krauel scored 19 points, 14 coming in the second half, while having five rebounds. Jensen had eight points, five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Hix and Sandilands each scored seven points.
Century, keying on Guerra throughout the game, held the talented guard scoreless, but Guerra did dish off seven assists.
"Jamison has such a high basketball IQ," Tufts said. "He'll do anything to help us win."
Bulfinch scored three points, and he had a strong overall game when it came to rebounds, passing and defense — and more.
"He's a big-time energy guy for us," Tufts said of Bulfinch. "He can defend. He can rebound. He's just a phenomenal teammate."
"Tufts was telling me before the game that this had to be my most physical game," Bulfinch said. "I think it was one of my most physical games. That was on my mind."
Sherwood, as a team, made 24 of 53 shots from the field, with 11 3-pointers, and seven of 12 free-throw attempts. The Bowmen also outrebounded Century by a 32-23 margin.
Essien and Mugisha each scored 15 points to lead the Jaguars. Sparks added 13 points and eight rebounds. Chan scored four points.
Century, as a team, made 18 of 46 shots from the field, with four 3-pointers, and nine of 15 free-throw attempts.
"We're most definitely happy with how we played. It was a great challenge, and we took it on pretty well. They're just a great team," Chan said. "It was fun. No one really likes losing, but everyone likes a good challenge. We're all just like family, and we just like to compete together."
Now that the Bowmen have clinched the conference championship, they're setting their sites on a new goal.
"You know what's next — we have to get to the Chiles Center, baby," Thorn said, referring to the site of the Class 6A state tournament.
"The Chiles Center — yeah, it really is a goal," Bulfinch said. "We're going to take it one game at a time, playing the best we can."
Century will finish its Pacific Conference schedule on Tuesday, when it plays at Forest Grove at 7 p.m. The Bowmen will complete their regular-season slate Thursday with a 7:15 p.m. home game with Glencoe.