Basketball: Tualatin boys rally to top rival Tigard in thriller
John Miller did a lot of amazing things in the contest.
The Tualatin High School senior drove the lane and threw down a thunderous dunk. He made a running, half-court bank shot to end the first half. He blocked a shot with authority, smacking the ball into the stands.
But, maybe the most important thing Miller did when the Timberwolves faced off with rival Tigard in a Three Rivers League boys basketball showdown was simply sink a pair of free throws.
Miller's free throws, coming with 18.2 seconds left to play in the game, capped off a furious Tualatin fourth-quarter rally, and helped secure a 70-66 win for the Wolves in a game played in front of a large, boisterous crowd Feb. 26 at Tualatin High School.
"I'm glad I pulled that one off," Miller said of the clutch free throws. "I wasn't thinking of anything. I was letting the crowd say what they wanted to say, and I was in my zone. I knew I was going to hit those free throws."
With the win in the intense back-and-forth battle, Tualatin improved to 6-5 in TRL play (12-11 overall), putting the Wolves alone in third place in the league standings.
"This is huge. We needed this one. It really helped push us forward," Miller said. "These games are something else. We like to show off for our crowd, and when they pull up, we have to do something. We know that Tigard-Tualatin games are always going to be a huge rivalry, and we have to bring it every time, or it's going to turn out the way it shouldn't."
"Oh yeah, it was a big test, especially in the first half, being down to a team like Tigard, they're really good," said Tualatin junior Logan Shaw, who scored nine fourth-quarter points to help spark the Wolves' rally. "We had to be patient, and let the ball come to us. We locked in on defense, and got some offensive opportunities."
Tigard moved to 5-6 in TRL games (15-8 overall), putting the Tigers in fourth place in the league standings.
"I feel like, at the beginning, we really got after them," said Tigard junior post Edward Beglaryan, who scored 11 points in the contest. "We had a lead at times throughout the game, but we let them chip back, and get back into the game. We tried our best, but now we're going to have to focus on Oregon City on Friday."
The fireworks started early in the Tigard-Tualatin rivalry clash. Miller drove into the paint and threw down a dunk, giving the Wolves a 9-6 lead, while also causing an eruption of sound to come from the Tualatin fans, with 5 minutes and 36 seconds left to play in the first quarter. But, just 10 seconds later, Tigard junior Drew Carter drove to the hoop from the wing and slammed down a one-handed dunk of his own, causing deafening noise to come from the Tiger faithful.
Carter would score 11 points in the opening period, and Beglaryan added five points, including a 3-point basket, to help Tigard take a 22-18 lead to the second quarter.
The Tigers kept rolling from there. Tigard senior Dylan Berg scored on a layup off a pass from freshman guard Malik Brown to open the period. Then, following a 3-pointer by Tualatin senior Sam Noland, the Tigers went on a 7-2 run, which included baskets by junior Jake Wihtol, freshman Kalim Brown and Carter, and a free throw by Malik Brown, giving Tigard a 31-23 advantage with 3:28 left before halftime.
But the Wolves started to battle back before the intermission. Tualatin got a 3-pointer from senior Bret Robert, a free throw by Shaw and a basket on a jumper by Miller to trim the lead to 35-29 with 42 seconds left in the quarter.
Then, as time was running out, Miller grabbed a rebound following a Tigard miss, quickly drove to center court and, as the buzzer sounded, he sank a running, mid-court 3-point banker, falling over Carter in the process, making the score 35-32 at halftime.
"I threw that up, and I thought it was going to go over the backboard," Miller said. "I thought I shot it way too far, but it went in, so it was worth it."
Even though the Wolves took momentum to the halftime break, Tigard came back strong in the third quarter, keeping the lead throughout the period. In fact, back-to-back baskets by junior Brett Moss and Carter gave the Tigers a 45-37 lead with 4:29 left in the quarter.
Tualatin battled back, trimming the margin to 47-45 with 2:16 remaining in the period. But the Tigers held strong. Kalim Brown sank a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left in the period. Then, after the Wolves got a layup by Robert, coming off a pass from senior Jeremy Lund, Malik Brown sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the circle, giving the Tigers a 56-49 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That's where things got really interesting.
Shaw scored four straight points, twice going 2 for 2 from the free-throw line, to open the scoring in the fourth quarter. Tualatin sophomore Malik Ross followed with a basket on a drive, quickly cutting the Tigard lead to 56-55 with 6:30 left in the game.
Carter scored on a short-range scoop shot to momentarily end the Tualatin run. But the Wolves took off again. Shaw scored on a drive from the left side and then, following a free throw by Malik Brown, Noland converted a 3-point play, giving Tualatin its first lead since the first three minutes of the game, at 60-59, with 4:37 left in the contest.
Shaw followed that up by sinking a 3-pointer from the left wing, giving him nine points in the first 3:54 of the period, and the Wolves a 63-59 advantage with 4:06 remaining to play.
"It was a little bit of frustration, and I decided to take in out on defense, and it transitioned into offense," Shaw said of his scoring spree. "It's just my teammates trusting me, and my coach, and seeing what I can do."
"That was great," Miller said. "We needed that."
But things were far from over. Kalim Brown answered with a 3-pointer to cut the Tualatin lead to one. But Noland and Miller responded with back-to-back baskets, giving the Wolves a 67-62 lead with 2:53 remaining.
Beglaryan then scored on a follow-up shot. Then, after Miller sank a free throw, Carter went 2 for 2 from the free-throw line, trimming the Tualatin lead to 68-66 with 51.8 seconds left to play.
Tigard then got the ball back when Kalim Brown drew a charging call with 45 seconds remaining. But Miller blocked a shot on the Tigers' ensuing possession, with the Wolves gathering the rebound.
Miller was the fouled with 18.2 seconds remaining, and he sank both of those free throws to all but wrap up the victory for the Wolves.
"Coach (Todd Jukkala) called a timeout, and said this is a big game in league for us, and, if we want to go to the playoffs, we need to secure a spot," Shaw said of Tualatin's fourth-quarter rally. "So, we all just bought in as a team and dominated."
"We had a good mentality going into the second half. We tried to ramp things up, we knew we could hang with them, and that we could beat them," Miller said. "We know that when we up on teams, we're going to stay up on teams."
"It was pretty intense," Beglaryan said. "Kalim got us a good charge, and I thought it was going to go our way after that, but it we just couldn't get our shot off. It was pretty fun to be a part of. Both teams got after it."
Miller paced the Wolves with 21 points in the contest. He also had six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
"This was amazing," Miller said. "It was probably the best game of my high school career."
Noland scored 19 points for the Wolves. Shaw had 10 points. Ross scored six. Sophomore Peter Burke and Robert each had five.
Tualatin, as a team, made 25 of 44 shots from the field, with seven 3-pointers, and 13 of 15 free-throw attempts.
"This was unbelievable," Shaw said. "We finally came together as a team. You could feel the goosebumps."
Carter led all scorers in the contest with 26 points. He also had five rebounds. Malik Brown had 11 points and a pair of steals. Beglaryan had 11 points and Kalim Brown score eight.
Tigard, as a team, made 25 of 58 shots from the field, with five 3-pointers, and 11 of 17 free-throw attempts.
"We just have to pick it up," Beglaryan said. "We have to settle down, put this one in the back of our heads and focus on Friday. We need to move forward."
Both teams finish their Three Rivers League schedules on Friday. Tualatin will host Lakeridge at 7 p.m., and Tigard will be home to face Oregon City at 7:15 p.m.
The Class 6A state playoffs will start on Wednesday with first-round games. It appears that Tigard will be playing at home in the first round, while Tualatin will be playing on the road.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.