Wilsonville bests La Salle for league title
Wilsonville—Wilsonville wrapped up its home season with the perfect set of circumstances. The Wildcats defeated the visiting La Salle Falcons 55-47 on Friday, Feb. 16 in front of a buzzing home crowd.
With the win, the Wildcats claimed sole possession of the Northwest Oregon Conference putting themselves three games ahead of number two La Salle. Wilsonville improves to 12-0 in league play, and 16-6 overall. La Salle falls to 9-3 in league, and 12-10 overall.
The win did not come easy for the Wildcats though.
"It was one and two, the two best teams in the league playing against each other," La Salle head coach Sean Christensen said. "It's going to be physical and tough."
"Their team is tough, they do a good job," Wilsonville head coach Chris Roche said. "This is a good win for us because it wasn't easy and we had to do some tough things. In league, we haven't had a whole lot of games like that, so this is good."
La Salle opened the game up with junior Jace Norton hitting a 3-pointer to give the Falcons an early lead. Wilsonville's Ryan Napoli would answer with a bucket of his own, but La Salle continued to apply the pressure. Baskets from senior Tabor Bosco and junior Justin North gave the Falcons an early 8-2 lead.
The two teams traded turnovers, and Wilsonville's Napoli was fouled hard along the baseline from La Salle's North. Wilsonville would make the most of Napoli's trip to the foul line, claiming two baskets to bring the early deficit to four.
"It was just a competitive game," Napoli said. "It was fun. League championship on the line, super fun, super competitive."
Wilsonville would continue to mount offense late in the first. A basket from sophomore Dakota Reber and a buzzer beater from senior Caleb Larsen closing out the quarter with Wilsonville in the hole 10-8.
In the second quarter, Wilsonville's Larsen started off the scoring by nailing three straight free throws after being fouled from beyond the arc. Those free throws gave Wilsonville its first lead of the night at 11-10.
"I think we were out there playing as hard as we could together, fighting away, doing whatever we could to win that game," Larsen said.
As the quarter progressed, Wilsonville would find more and more shooters who were able to put the ball away. Junior Jack Roche found a basket off of a takeaway; Ryan Napoli found a pair of buckets inside; sophomore Gabe Reichle found a pair of free throws, a 2-pointer, and a takeaway; and to cap it off, Larsen found two more shots his own before the first half had ended.
Conversely, La Salle relied heavily on Jace Norton in the second quarter. Norton scored all but one of the Falcon's baskets, and had 10 points in the second eight minutes despite every attempt from the Wilsonville defense.
"The heated competition definitely makes it easier to be aggressive," Norton said. "But it was tough, they were guarding me really hard. It allows me to be more aggressive when they're being really aggressive with me."
When the two teams left for halftime, it was Wilsonville up 27-23.
Coming out of the locker rooms for halftime, the Wildcats put their foot on the accelerator and took off. After a bucket from La Salle's Norton, Wilsonville's Larsen hit a 2-pointer and a shot from beyond the arc. The latter basket came off of a Zac Rossetti takeaway to put the Wildcats up by seven points.
La Salle had a few moments in the third quarter. Norton nailed a free throw, freshman Nicolas Boyd made a pair, and senior Dominic Pisaneschi sent the ball between the legs of Gabe Reichle to Bosco for a 2-pointer. Still, when the third quarter ended, it was Wilsonville ahead 39-30.
In the fourth quarter, Wilsonville extended their lead. Roche nailed a three pointer to start off the quarter. As La Salle got the ball back down to the other side of the court, sophomore Reber had a massive block as a Falcon took the ball to the hoop. Rossetti had a takeaway that led to a big layup, and the Wildcats were up 14 points.
The Falcons stemmed the bleeding though by going on a run of their own. La Salle's Boyd nailed a pair of free throws, followed by a junior Nolan Grogan basket, and a pair of buckets from Norton. The deficit was reduced to six points, and stood at 44-38.
Wilsonville's Caleb Larsen put a stop the visiting teams streak, sinking a pair of baskets and reestablishing a double digit lead. Still, a free throw from La Salle's Jace Norton seemed to quiet the room again.
It was at that moment, Dakota Reber made his presence known. The 6'5" sophomore went sky high to get a pass from Jack Roche, and slammed down a thunderous ally oop that elicited a roar from the home crowd. La Salle would find a few more baskets before the end of regulation, but Wilsonville was firmly in control of the game and ultimately the league. The Wildcats finished the quarter on top, 55-47.
"I think from here on out, we have to expect things to be tougher," coach Roche said. "I think the goal for us is going to be to handle that, and to handle it well and not blink. To step up and fight, and keep fighting. In the face of adversity, even if it's not going perfectly, to keep at it. This was a great game for us that way. It's a prelude for what's ahead."
Wilsonville goes on to face Parkrose on Tuesday, Feb. 20. La Salle will square off with St. Helens.