No. 1 West Linn opens with rout of Skyview
The curtain finally went up on the West Linn boys basketball team's highly anticipated season on Friday, Dec. 10, when the top-ranked Lions hosted Skyview of Vancouver.
Junior point guard Jackson Shelstad and his teammates didn't disappoint, displaying their long-range shooting and tenacious defense in an 84-54 rout of the Storm.
The Oregon-bound Shelstad had a game-high 31 points, three assists, three rebounds and eight steals, while senior guard Zeke Viuhkola added 16 points, six assists and five rebounds. West Linn shot 55.5 percent, including 10 of 22 from three-point range, and forced 17 turnovers, converting many into baskets.
"I think it was a solid start," Shelstad said. "I'm just glad we got the win. I thought we played really good defense. I'm proud of the way we played defensively. It opened it up for us to get up and down the court and get open layups."
With the win, the Lions improved to 1-0 overall, while the Storm lost for the first time and fell to 1-1 overall.
West Linn scored the game's first 15 points, getting two 3-pointers from Shelstad and one from Viuhkola. But Skyview answered with the next 14 points, with 6-foot-6 senior wing Colton Looney making three consecutive 3-pointers.
After that, though, it was all West Linn. Five Lions combined to make nine 3-pointers in the first half as the lead ballooned to 50-32 by intermission.
"We have a good shooting team, but you can't count on shooting like that all the time," Lions coach Eric Viuhkola said. "We got it going from three-point land."
In addition, West Linn's defense smothered Skyview.
"I think we kind of rattled them with our pressure a little bit and took them out of what they wanted to do," Eric Viuhkola said. "We work on it all the time. We try to impose our will and get them to play our pace, speed people up. I thought we did a really good job of that."
Skyview was unable to get into its offense as the Lions made every pass an adventure.
"We take a lot of pride in not giving up anything easy and making everyone work for what they get," Zeke Viuhkola said. "That's what we'll try to bring throughout the whole year."
The Lions' intensity and execution left an impression on Skyview coach Matt Gruhler.
"They're well coached. They play hard. They do everything right," Gruhler said. "You could see that they are the No. 1 team in the state for a reason."
West Linn also got 13 points from 6-6 senior Peyton Durbin and eight from junior forward Mark Hamper. Looney, who is headed to Whitworth, led Skyview with 18 points.
Shelstad, Zeke Viuhkola and Durbin have returned to their starting roles this season, but a fourth starter, 6-8 senior Mason Vanbeenan, is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in July. Without Vanbeenan, who led the state in blocked shots last season (3.6 per game), the Lions have tweaked their lineup.
"It's a big difference," Shelstad said. "He's probably the best big in the state when he's healthy. Without him, it changes a lot. It just means we all have to crash the boards, us little guards, including me. It's just more pressure on us. But I think we can still go far and win the state championship."
The 6-0 Shelstad, who averaged 26.8 points as a sophomore in leading the Lions to a 9-0 record in the abbreviated 2021 spring season, was outstanding Friday. He made 12 of 18 shots, hitting 5 of 7 from behind the arc. And he was a pest on defense, too, with five of his baskets coming in transition off turnovers.
"He's one of the better players I've seen in a long time," Gruhler said. "He's right up there with some of the best I've seen. Under control, just really poised. He makes the big shot, makes the right play. It's easy to root for a kid like that."
Shelstad, a third-year starter at point guard, has noticeably improved his strength and athleticism since last season.
"I've been in the weight room a lot," Shelstad said. "I'm trying to get my shot consistent, too, my three. I was a little off tonight — I missed a little bit — but I'll keep working."
Zeke Viuhkola said Shelstad has "really just taken it to another level, and being more aggressive. We all know what he can do. We just want him taking more of a leadership role and just push us forward."
Eric Viuhkola said he thinks Shelstad is Oregon's top player and among the best he has seen in his two decades of coaching in the state. Considering that he coached four state championships with point guard Payton Pritchard, now with the Boston Celtics, Viuhkola has a unique perspective.
"Everyone wants to compare Jackson to Payton," he said. "And Payton is Jackson's big brother. They worked out a ton this summer together.
"(But) they're different. Jackson is really twitchy and super athletic. And Payton's just super tough. They're both really, really skilled and love being in the gym and working their butt off. You just like to see guys like that have a lot of success. I'm proud of both of them."
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