Wilsonville wins competitive affair against St. Helens, 67-49
Wilsonville—In a league rivalry that has predominantly one way traffic going back the last few years, Wilsonville continued its winning streak against the visiting St. Helens Lions. This time however, it was not the 50 point plus blowout that it had been in the past. St. Helens was competitive early, but fell behind towards the end of the first half. Wilsonville outlasted the Lions to win by a margin of 67-49.
"I thought our defensive pressure was really good," Wilsonville head coach Chris Roche said after the game. "We probably had 25 deflections, which is double our goal for a game. Playing with that kind of intensity and activity on defense is important, and going forward that's something we can build around. Hopefully the offense will come along, but that side of the ball was pretty good."
The takeaways and deflections were a big part of Wilsonville's success early. In the first quarter, however, it was St. Helens that drew first blood. 6'2 Senior Trenton Minich drained a three pointer to get the game started, but Wilsonville answered right away.
Wilsonville's Ryan Napoli got a takeaway, and dished it off to senior Caleb Larsen who hit an easy basket. Moments later, Larsen would get a takeaway out of the hands of a St. Helens player and, several passes later, sophomore Dakota Reber sank the follow up.
Wilsonville was more active in scoring, and with more variety. Six different Wildcats added to the lead, and by the end of the first quarter it was 17-14 in a close contest. Larsen had six points in the first half, and two takeaways that led directly to Wilsonville baskets.
"Caleb Larsen was amazing pressuring the ball, he's probably one of the best in the state at it," Roche said. "I thought he was the biggest key to the game tonight, he played great. He had 10 deflections, and can just go forever.
The takeaways carried over into the Wilsonville second quarter. Larsen picked up yet another takeaway to start the second stanza, and 6'0 junior Jack Roche caught fire towards the end of the half. Roche had 11 points in the second quarter, leading his team in the half. Still, the Lions had focused on keeping the explosive shooter quiet.
"It was the game plan going in because we knew Jack was one of their best players, if not their best," Minich said. "We knew he could easily come in here and drop as many points as he wants. I've been our main stopper, I want to take the role of stopping their best player. That was our game plan, to not let him touch the ball the most, and if he does, make it as hard as possible."
St. Helens was not totally quiet in the first half though. Minich had 11 points in the half, and sophomore Joe Rea drained a three to keep Wilsonville's lead from taking off entirely. Still, by the end of the half the Wildcats led the dance 36-21.
In the second half, Wilsonville extended its lead further and on the back of buckets from sophomore Keegan Shivers, Roche, and Larsen.
Larsen continued his takeaway streak, taking the ball out of the hands of the St. Helens offense, heading to the basket and sinking the layup, and drawing the foul on top of it all. The kicker? Larsen sank the free throw on top of it.
Towards the end of the third quarter, St. Helens sunk a string of baskets to bring the score to 51-35.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lions sank baskets more often the than the defending home team. Senior Jacob Falk was four for four in free throws, and Minich had six points in the final eight minutes. Minich finished the game with 20 points overall.
By the end of the game though, Wilsonville had sealed up the win with efficiency, getting the W with a tally of 67-49.
Wilsonville continues its winning streak in the NWOC, moving to 7-0 in league play. St. Helens falls to 3-4 in the conference, but for head coach Jordan Massinger he sees an improvement in his team compared to where they were a year ago.
"We didn't lose by 70," Massinger said. "A couple years ago, a 70 point loss, and then it was a 40, 50, 60 point loss and this year we competed. It wasn't surprising because I feel like my guys can compete with any team. That was the most surprising thing because that's something we've been struggling with the last five or six games, we come out a little flat. So to come out here against the toughest team we're going to play all year and match them toe to toe, I was surprised in a pleasant way."
Wilsonville (11-6 overall, 7-0 in the NWOC) moves on to play Milwaukie (5-12 overall, 0-7 in the NWOC) on Wednesday, Jan. 31. St. Helens (9-8 overall, 3-4 in the NWOC) faces off against Hillsboro (6-11 overall, 2-5 in the NWOC).