New-look West Linn beats Newberg, preps for Class 6A playoffs
Things have looked a little different for the West Linn boys basketball team lately.
The Lions are adjusting to life without senior post Keishon Dawkins (he had season-ending shoulder surgery in the first week of February), have played three straight without junior point guard Drayton Caoile (he was injured against Tualatin on Feb. 9) and went without junior wing Damiko Tidmore on Friday (he was away on a football recruiting visit).
Through all that, however, the Lions have persevered. West Linn won its fourth straight Three Rivers League game on Friday, muscling past Newberg 64-55 at Newberg High School to cap the 2018 Three Rivers League season.
"We really moved the ball well. We shot well. We just really shared the ball and we didn't take a lot of bad shots," said West Linn coach Tyler Toney.
With the win, the seventh-ranked Lions closed out the 2017-18 TRL season with an 11-3 record (16-8 overall) and sole possession of second place. The Lions hosted No. 26 Madison (15-9 overall after a sixth-place finish in the Portland Interscholastic League) in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Wednesday; if the Lions won there, they would host either No. 10 West Salem (17-7 after a third-place finish in the Greater Valley Conference) or No. 23 Clackamas (14-10 overall after finishing in a four-way tie for the Mt. Hood Conference championship) in Saturday's second round, with the winner earning a berth in the state tournament.
No. 34 Newberg ended its TRL campaign in sixth place at 5-9, then dropped a 65-57 decision at No. 30 West Albany in Saturday's Class 6A Play-In round to finish at 11-14 overall.
Despite the various lineup changes and challenges West Linn has faced, the Lions believe they'll be ready to go for postseason play. Toney said both Caoile and Tidmore would likely be ready to play Wednesday.
"We've adjusted pretty well. We had a lot of guys step up and really play well getting more minutes," Toney said, emphasizing the success of 6-foot-5 senior post Max Michelon in Dawkins' absence. "Keishon was such a big part of what we did that we weren't quite sure how we were going to respond, but the young guys have really responded well and we've gotten some good senior leadership so it's going probably better than we thought."
In the win over Newberg, West Linn saw six players score in the opening quarter (including four points from sophomore Bryson Crockett and a 3-pointer by sophomore Andre Best) to take a 15-13 lead, then really took control in the second period.
There, the Lions pieced together a 21-11 edge that extended their lead to 36-24 at the half, with senior guard Jalen Thompson knocking down two three-pointers and scoring eight points in the quarter and Best adding five more (including another "three").
The Tigers tried to stay close behind junior Alex Jaczko and sophomore Jack Chlumak, with Jaczko scoring six points in the frame and Chlumak adding five (including a 3-pointer).
Jaczko heated up in the third quarter with nine points on three "threes," while senior Ben O'Loughlin tacked on five more, but West Linn kept the Tigers at arm's length and led 50-41 at the end of the period. Thompson and Crockett scored four each in the stanza for West Linn.
The two teams then slugged it out through a 14-14 fourth quarter, with West Linn senior Ahmir McGee and junior Cade Knutson scoring four points each while senior Jordan Rice had six and Chlumak four for the Tigers.
"It was kind of awkward not having practiced in four days and then going out of playing," Toney said, recalling the impact of last week's snow on his team's schedule. "I wasn't sure how our intensity would be and I wasn't sure how we would shoot it. … It looked like we had four days off. We were a little rusty on the defensive side, but we played smart enough to cover some mistakes."
Thompson led the Lions with 14 points, while Crockett and Best had 10 each. Jaczko led all scorers with 19 points, Chlumak finished with 14, and O'Loughlin and Rice added 10 each.