So far, so good for the Tualatin Timberwolves boys basketball team that improved to 9-0 on the season after defeating Beaverton76-44 in the second round of the Les Schwab Invitational Wednesday night, Dec. 29, at Liberty High School.
The Wolves dominated the Beavers from the outset, building a 16-point first half lead, doubling Beaverton up, 52-26, by the half, then cruising to an impressive early season win over a good Beavers team.
"We talked about coming out and getting a good start, and for the most part this year we've been able to do that," Tualatin head coach Todd Jukkala said. "We were really concerned that we wouldn't control the pace because they're a good team at getting back and into their zone, but we were able to get in transition and that really helped."
Beaverton head coach Andrew Vancil credited Tualatin in defeat and confirmed Jukkala's suspicion that the Beavers might try to slow the game in an effort to give themselves their best chance to win. While not something they might normally do, the coach said that due to fatigue and some nagging injuries he thought it best they keep the game—and the Wolves—at or near a snail's pace.
"We really wanted to put an emphasis on defensive transition, create long possessions and execute, and unfortunately we didn't do any of that," Vancil said. "Credit to Tualatin. They're a very good team and had a good game plan, and kind of took us out of what we wanted to do."
Tualatin—led by Malik Ross' 16 points—had three players score in double digits and a fourth—Josiah Lake—finish with nine. In all, the Wolves saw nine people score and shot 55 percent from the field—a credit to their depth.
"We probably have more depth, and talented depth than we've ever had," Jukkala said. "We knew before the season that depth was going to be a strength of ours. We have guys that can step in and step up and keep things going when our starters establish a certain level of play. It's a big deal."
The Les Schwab Invitational is annually one of the region—and country's—best holiday tournaments. This year's event took a hit when a handful of the out-of-state teams were forced to cancel as the result of COVID complications, but both Tualatin and Beaverton made the most of their appearances, with the Timberwolves winning three times en route to a loss to Link Academy (Missouri) in the tournament final, while the Beavers went 3-1 and placed third by defeating Barlow in the third place game.
Both coaches spoke to the benefit of the early competition, citing such as a mechanism to future success in-state.
"This is a great training ground in December," Jukkala said. "This is the toughest preseason schedule I think we've had on the boys side, and it's great to have these challenges, and these guys meet them. We've still got Mountainside down the road and they're really good, so it doesn't get any easier for us and it's games like these that will prepare us for those future games."
Despite the loss Vancil agreed.
"I had the kids in the Capital City last week and the Les Schwab this week, and it's all about getting ready for the state tournament later," Vancil said. "We want these guys to know what it's like to play under pressure against good teams. It's a great challenge and is preparing our kids for the playoffs."
Ross, who was recently selected as Oregon's Offensive State Player of the Year in football and helped lead Tualatin to the state final against Central Catholic, too has been leading on the hardwood. The senior said it's not just about the experience this week, but also about further familiarizing themselves with some of the teams they'll likely see later if they want to win a state championship.
"It's a great tournament to get a feel for where we are as a team," Ross said. "We'll probably see a lot of these teams in the playoffs, and it'll help to have some success against them now. It's really prepping us for later in the season."
Tualatin fell to Link Academy 83-60 in the tournament final.
Beaverton defeated Barlow 59-43.
Tualatin scorers included: Ross 16, Ryan Schleicher 15, Noah Ogoli 12, Lake 9, Jaden Steppe 8, Peter Burke 5, Ashton Rose 4, Jack Wagner 3.
Beaverton scorers included: Max Elmgren 9, Aiden Rice 8, Mason Shank 6, Hunter Borter 5, Brady Rice 4, Philip Rosenfeld 4, Christian Gonzalez 3, Trevon Hamilton 3, Kane Krueger 2.
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