The West Linn boys basketball team had the aggression dial turned up to 11.
The Lions, hosting McNary in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs, used their aggression, speed and depth to great effect, accelerating past the Celtics 95-52 at West Linn High School on Wednesday, March 4.
"We know that the playoffs are going to be a battle so we've just got to come out hard every night," said West Linn senior guard Bryson Crockett, who finished with 13 points (on 3 of 5 shooting from the field with two 3-pointers and a 5 of 6 day at the foul line), along with two assists, one rebound and one steal. "We realized this was possibly the last time we're going to play here together so we just had to come out from the jump."
"It's a whole new season now. We've got to pick it up and I feel like our energy was great," said West Linn senior guard Micah Garrett, who had 16 points (on 7 of 10 shooting from the field with one 3-pointer and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line), along with two assists, one steal and one rebound. "We didn't want this to be our last game so we came out hard and competed."
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the ninth-ranked Lions and lifted their overall record to 16-9 after placing second in the Three Rivers League. No. 24 McNary, meanwhile, lost for the third straight time and finished with a 16-9 record after placing third in the Mountain Valley Conference.
The victory also moved the Lions one step closer to their ultimate goal — a berth in the eight-team Class 6A state tournament, set for March 12-14 at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus. To get there, West Linn must beat No. 8 Mountainside (21-4 after finishing second in the Metro League) at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at Mountainside High School.
"That's the goal — state — but we've got to do what we did today and get better," said West Linn senior wing/post Parker Durbin, who finished with four points against McNary (on 2 of 2 shooting from the field), along with four assists, two steals and two rebounds. "We've got two practices before (Saturday's second-round game) and we've got to do even better than today."
"We've just got to keep doing the little things, the same things," added West Linn senior guard/wing Gus Michelon, who had 11 points (on 4 of 6 shooting from the field with three 3-pointers), along with two steals, one assist and one rebound. "Our coach just emphasizes pass, cut, fill, swing and attack, and that's what we think about, especially when we need a good shot."
While the final score was lopsided, the Celtics hung close for most of the first quarter, getting 12 points in the opening frame from junior Nate Meithof and tying the game 14-14 when Meithof banked home a short shot from the left side at the end of the fast break with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the period.
Crockett kept his team rolling by scoring nine points in that first quarter, freshman guard Jackson Shelstad added another six and the Lions closed the stanza on an 11-5 run to lead 25-19. Crockett hit a "three" and scored five points in the final 1:49 and Michelon added another 3-pointer in that stretch.
The Lions dropped another 25 points on the Celtics in the second quarter, with Shelstad breaking free for nine points — he hit 4 of 5 shots in the period — Michelon hitting two "threes" and Garrett adding another seven points, including a 3-pointer of his own.
The Lions saw their first-half lead crest at 45-25 on a Garrett shot in the key with 1:22 to go in the half, then settled for a 50-31 edge at the break. Meithof and sophomore Kyler Rodriguez hit 3-pointers for McNary, but the Celtics went just 4 of 10 shooting (with two "threes") in the quarter and turned the ball over five times.
The Lions spread the wealth in the second half — they used all 14 of their varsity players in the final two periods — but continued to pull away, extending their lead to 68-37 when senior guard Colton Young took a pass from sophomore Zeke Viukhola and buried a "three" — one of four he hit in the game — from the top of the key with 3:26 to go in the third.
The lead was still 31 points — at 73-42 on a Viukhola 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter — hit 87-47 when senior guard Dane Cava hit a "three" and ended at 95-52 on freshman Mark Hamper's fast break basket in the final minute.
West Linn's defense — which forced 25 turnovers in the game — and depth both played big roles in the Lions' success.
"We can go hard the whole game and we can trust our bench because when they come in, they're going to score and play 'D,'" Crockett said.
"The first thing on our board today was 'Play our pace,'" Durbin added. "We knew that if we could make it fast, they didn't have a ton of guys like the depth we have. The last guy on our bench, I'd be confident if he went in the game. That's how much trust I have in my teammates."
Shelstad led his team with 19 points (on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line), along with five steals and four assists, and Young added 12 points (on 4 of 6 shooting from the field with four "threes"), along with three rebounds and one assist.
Meithof led all scorers with 21 points (on 8 of 17 shooting from the field with three 3-pointers), along with five rebounds and one assist. Tyler O'Connor added eight points for McNary and Gunner Smedema seven.
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