West Linn boys win twice in a row in Les Schwab Invitational opener
The West Linn boys basketball team had some moments in its opener at the 2019 Les Schwab Invitational.
Facing nationally-ranked Norcross High School of Atlanta, Georgia, the Lions had moments of brilliance, and some "other" moments, too.
But West Linn saved some of its best moments for last, rallying from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and closing within a single point twice in the final minute before finally dropping a 62-58 decision at Liberty High School on Thursday, Dec. 26.
"We know we're a really good team," said West Linn freshman guard Jackson Shelstad, who led his team with 20 points and added four rebounds, four assists and one steal. "We've struggled a little bit in the last couple of games, but we are a really good team. We were right there. We easily could have won that game."
"We feel like we have enough talent to play with anybody in the country," said Lion senior guard/wing Gus Michelon, who added seven points, three rebounds and two assists. "This game, we all did our job and we were in the game at the end but it slipped away."
While they were disappointed with the loss, the Lions were proud of their efforts and the way they pushed the Blue Devils to the very end.
"Our thing going into the game was just believing in ourselves," said West Linn senior post Joe Juhala, who added six points, six rebounds and one assist. "As coach (Eric Viuhkola) always says, there's always a way to win any game, so I think the biggest thing going into it was just being confident in ourselves and believing in our abilities."
West Linn came back to beat Barlow 61-59 on Friday, Dec. 27, then dumped Jesuit 56-45 on Saturday, Dec. 28, in the consolation semifinals to improve to 4-4 on the season.
Next up, the Lions will face Clackamas in the consolation championship at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29.
Norcross 62, West Linn 58: The Lions were dead-even at 17-17 after the first quarter, trailed 30-25 at the half — in part thanks to a last-second steal followed by a running, banked 3-pointer by J.T Thor — and entered the fourth period down 45-37.
The Blue Devils – led by Josh Taylor's 24 points and 11 rebounds, 20 points from Quincy Ademokoya and 15 points by Thor — then pushed their lead to 47-37 when Thor took a pass from Will Campbell and buried a jumpshot from the foul line just 19 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But the Lions rallied with a 19-10 stretch over a span of 5 minutes, 29 seconds to close within 57-56 when senior Micah Garrett took a Michelon pass and drilled a "three" from the right wing with 43 seconds left to play.
Highlights in that run were a pair of 3-pointers by Shelstad, five points from Garrett and four by Juhala.
The Lions were still down just 59-58 when Shelstad drove down the left side of the lane to score with 14 seconds left in the game, but Ademokoya knocked down two foul shots on the next possession to extend his team's lead to 61-58, Shelstad just missed a long 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Norcross' Jaden Harris added another free throw with four seconds remaining to end it.
"I think I could have gotten a little better shot. There were still four seconds and I kind of forced it just right inside half-court," Shelstad said. "I thought it looked straight, but it just didn't have the power."
Garrett added 12 points and two rebounds for West Linn.
West Linn 61, Barlow 59: The Lions were in another battle on Friday, fighting back from a 12-point first-half deficit to beat talented Barlow 61-59.
The Bruins, getting a game-high 27 points from Evan Inglesby, raced out to a 23-14 edge at the end of the first quarter, then extended their lead to 12 points with 5:41 remaining in the first half.
But West Linn was not going to be denied. The Lions — led by Garrett's 21 points, 19 from Shelstad and Mason VanBeenan's nine rebounds — roared back late in the second quarter to take a 33-28 lead at halftime, extended their edge to nine points midway through the third, then held on to win by two.
Garrett added five rebounds, two assists and a steal, and VanBeenan and senior Parker Durbin had six points each. For Barlow, Jesse White and Joey Wolcott added 11 points each, and Jaren Hunter had six assists and three steals.
West Linn 56, Jesuit 45: The Lions put the pressure on reigning Class 6A state champion Jesuit from the opening tap and never let up en route to their solid Saturday win.
West Linn led 10-3 after the first quarter, extended their edge to 23-13 at the half, 41-29 after three, and finally, to 17 points with just 1:49 left in the contest.
Garrett led the way again with 19 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal, Shelstad had 12 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals, Durbin added 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Michelon had seven points and nine rebounds.
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