West Linn boys basketball drops South Medford 56-39 in Class 6A quarterfinals
The West Linn boys basketball team hit the ground running in its Class 6A state tournament opener.
The fifth-ranked Lions — facing No. 4 South Medford at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus on Wednesday, March 9 — blasted out to a 12-point lead after just 5 minutes and 27 seconds.
While that lead didn't last — the Panthers trailed by just one point a minute into the second half — West Linn left nothing to chance down the stretch, outscoring South Medford by 16 points the rest of the way to win 56-39.
"I think in the first half, we got off to a little bit of a slow start," said West Linn junior guard Jackson Shelstad, who led all scorers with 26 points (on 9 of 18 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers and a 4 of 6 day at the foul line), along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. "But in the second half, we started manning up and we took it personally. We didn't want our men to get any easy (scores). I think we just started playing our basketball."
"We were running a 3-2 matchup zone … (and) we could never find our groove for it, so in the second half, we just had to man up and focus up and get it done," said junior wing Mark Hamper, who added five points (on 2 of 4 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer and a 0 for 2 day at the foul line), along with four rebounds, one assist and two steals.
"We always just talk about our poise and our mental toughness," added senior guard Zeke Viuhkola, who added 16 points (on 6 of 13 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer and a 3 of 3 day at the foul line), along with six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot. "We know that the other teams go on runs, and we've just got to stay in it and keep playing our game and we'll take care of business."
With the win — West Linn's fourth straight — the Lions improved to 22-3 overall after finishing second in the Three Rivers League. Next up, West Linn face Three Rivers League champion Tualatin — a 54-43 winner over No. 8 Beaverton on Wednesday — in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 11.
South Medford, meanwhile, saw its 17-game winning streak snapped and fell to 23-3 after winning the Southwest Conference.
The Panthers were led by freshman guard Boden Howell's 16 points (on 6 of 16 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers and a 1 of 2 day at the foul line), along with one rebound. Freshman Drew Hall had eight points (on 3 of 4 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers), along with one rebound and one steal, while senior Devon Malcolm added five points (on 1 of 5 shooting from the floor and a 3 of 7 day at the foul line), along with nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
In the Lions' fast start, Hamper hit twice from the field (including a 3-pointer) and scored five points, Shelstad knocked down a pair of free throws and had four points, Viuhkola hit once from the field and senior Peyton Durbin converted a layin for that 13-1 edge with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter.
But South Medford rallied then and there, answering with a 13-2 run if its own to close within 15-14 when Malcolm blocked a Viuhkola shot and sophomore Jackson Weiland converted on the fast break with 4:55 left in the half.
The Panthers were still within 20-19 when Howell knocked down a jumpshot with 3:40 left in the half, and trailed just 28-27 when Howell hit from the left side with 6:50 to go in the third quarter.
But from there, the Lions turned up the heat on defense, and slowly but surely dismantled the Panthers and pulled away. Over the game's final 14:21, West Linn held South Medford to 4 of 15 shooting from the field and forced five turnovers.
"We started playing against their tendencies, and we started getting stops," Hamper said. "That's where the success came from."
On their end of the court, the Lions knocked down 10 of 19 shots (including four 3-pointers) over the game's final 14:37, with Shelstad playing the biggest role. He hit a "three" from the right wing, a pullup from the right side, another 3-pointer from the right wing, a foul shot and a layin to pour in 11 of his team's last 16 points in the third quarter and give his team a 44-32 lead going into the fourth.
The Panthers got within 44-34 on a Malcolm lob dunk early in the fourth, but got no closer. The Lions closed the game on a 12-5 run over the game's final 6:18, With Viuhkola scoring five straight points, Shelstad tacking on three more, and Durbin and sophomore Max Juhala adding two each to put South Medford away.
"We didn't … force anything," Shelstad said. "We got a lot of open looks, just making plays for each other. We attacked more instead of settling for three-pointers."
— Jerry Ulmer contributed to this story.
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