Wilsonville falls to Thurston in state championship game 54-36
Corvallis—Just after Churchill upset the number one seed Silverton, Wilsonville went into Gill Coliseum looking to avoid a similar upset against the fifth ranked Springfield Millers. After four hard fought quarters, the Wildcats defeated the resilient Springfielders by a margin of a 67-51.
With the win, Wilsonville advanced to the semifinals riding a 16 game winning streak, and an overall record of 20-6. Springfield has since exited the tournament following a subsequent loss to Silverton with a record of 19-8.
"They're a good team, and that's a really good league," Wilsonville head coach Chris Roche said. "For them to 11-3 in that league with four of the top eight teams, that's pretty good. But we've shown glimpses lately of being pretty good. When we move the ball, we can be pretty good.
Wilsonville junior Jack Roche was named the Wildcat's player of the game, and it was tough to argue. Roche recorded 10 points, nine assists, six turnovers, and two steals, and was a constant source of energy on the court. Leading Wilsonville's scoring was senior Zac Rossetti, going 6 for 6 from the game, and 2 of 3 from the free throw line for 15 points. Coming in second was fellow senior Caleb Larsen, who notched 14 points, going an impressive 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
The first quarter was one of success for the Wildcats in terms of variety. Five baskets from five different shooters gave Wilsonville 12 points by the end of the first quarter. That scoring included baskets from Roche, Larsen, Rossetti, sophomore Keegan Shivers, and sophomore Dakota Reber. By the end of the first quarter, it was 12-8 for the Wildcats.
"We were feeling pretty good," Larsen said. "We have some great shooters on our team. If we move the ball to any of our guys, we can all knock down shots. When we're moving the ball, it makes it a lot easier."
In the second quarter, Springfield came out swinging. Junior Zach Brown hit two baskets to start the quarter off, tying the game up. Sophomore Gabe Reichle was called for a foul, and Springfield's Jordan Carrillo sank a pair of free throws to put the Millers up by two points. During that time Wilsonville nearly pulled away on three different occasions. Roche sank two 3-pointers and Larsen one of his own, but each basket was called back due to fouls. Regardless, the Wildcats pulled away.
The small lead that Springfield established was gone due to a Gabe Reichle 3-pointer, and after that the Wildcats were off to the races. A pair of baskets from Keegan Shivers and another Reichle 2-pointer put Wilsonville up by nine points. Springfield junior Charlie Grousbeck hit a short range shot to pull within seven points, but Wilsonville answered right away.
Senior Zac Rossetti drained a 3-pointer as the buzzer blew, and Wilsonville took to the locker room with a 26-16 lead.
"The 3-pointer right before halftime was a big point because the game went from seven to 10," Roche said. "It's psychologically a good feeling. You feel like you stole some points there."
"We were feeling pretty good at halftime," Keegan Shivers said. "We just need to keep getting stops, keep reversing the ball, and keep sharing it. I thought we did really did good with that, just everybody touching it every possession."
At haltime, the team was shooting well from beyond the arc, going 5-10 on "threes" and 10-21 overall. In the second half, Wilsonville upped its game even further.
Senior Caleb Larsen hit a 2-pointer a minute into the third stanza, followed in short order by Rossetti and Reber to double the Wildcat lead over the Millers. Roche scored four straight baskets after that, two from the free throw line, one from inside the paint, and one from beyond the arc. Soon, Wilsonville had a 20 point lead with 2:28 to go in the third quarter.
Springfield had a string of points happen as the third quarter wound down though, with senior Jadan Reynolds knocking down four free throws in a row, and giving Springfield a hint of momentum.
"When you foul a team 90 feet away and you're up to 20 and put them on the line, that's not very smart," Roche said. "Stops the clock, they got free throws, they can set up their press. There's just a plethora of things bad about fouling when you've got a big lead. We're still relatively young, so we're kind of working our way through that."
Wilsonville's Dakota Reber had other ideas. The 6'5" sophomore slammed down a massive dunk, and swatted away a Millers inside jumper on successive plays. By the time the third quarter ended, Wilsonville had control of the game 45-30.
In the fourth quarter, Springfield would see its best success up to that point, scoring 21 points in the final eight minutes, in large part due to Brown. Brown had 17 points overall, and was trailed by Carrillo with 10. At one point in the final quarter, the Millers closed the gap to as few nine points with 2:25 to go in the game. Part of the reason they were getting so close was that Wilsonville was beginning to rack up the fouls. The Wildcats were called for 11 fouls in the second half, but it was not enough to secure the Millers comeback. Wilsonville closed the show with a final score of 67-51, and moved on to the semifinals to face Churchill.
When Wilsonville entered the quarterfinals of the 5A boys basketball tournament, number one ranked Silverton was the team to beat. The Foxes were on the same side of the bracket as the Wildcats, but after Wednesday, Mar. 7, the story had changed. Eighth ranked Churchill had defeated the Foxes by two points, and moved on to face off with the NWOC champions.
In the semifinals, the two teams threw down. Over the course of 32 competitive minutes, Wilsonville pulled away from the resilient Lancers and got the victory 58-43 to move on to the finals. Wilsonville (21-6) secured a spot in the finals against Thurston (21-6).
"I'm really proud of our kids," Roche said. "That's a really good team. Anytime you get to the semifinals it's tough. I thought we grinded that one out superbly. We weren't perfect again, but the attitude and effort were pretty close. As a coach, that's what you're really hoping for. I'm super proud of our guys."
In the first quarter, Churchill came out shooting daggers, sinking two 3-pointers back to back courtesy of senior Cole Wilkenson. Wilkenson led the Lancers in scoring in the first half, scoring 11 points over 16 minutes.
Wilsonville answered well though, scoring big points inside the paint courtesy of sophomores Dakota Reber and Keegan Shivers. Reber had nine points in the first half, and shot 75% from the field. Other contributors to Wilsonville's 16 points in the first quarter were senior Caleb Larsen and junior Jack Roche. At the end of the first quarter, Wilsonville went on an eight point run to take the lead 16-11.
Reber knew he was having a strong showing even then in the early goings.
"I kind of felt that in the first quarter," Reber said. "I was just being aggressive, getting boards, carrying on from there."
In the second quarter, the Churchill tried to steal back some of the momentum Wilsonville had. Lancer sophomore Ejim Akuma III and Wilkenson hit back-to-back baskets to tie the game up at 16. Wilsonville answered with sophomore Gabe Reichle picking up an offensive rebound and hitting a layup. Reber hit a three pointer, senior Zac Rossetti hit a free throw, and Wilsonville was up by four points at 22-18.
The biggest moment in the second quarter was a defensive play. Rossetti swatted away a Churchill 3-pointer, and Jack Roche picked up the ball in the ensuing fast break to sink the layup with 1:30 left in the half.
"I was surprised I blocked it, I'm not going to lie," Rossetti said. "I was trying to contest it because he had hit two in a row right off the bat so I just didn't want him to get anymore after that. I just tried to get there as fast as I could and I got a hand on it."
Churchill picked up three more points by the time the half ended, and it was 25-21 for the Wildcats.
In the third quarter, Wilsonville came out swinging, scoring five straight baskets, four courtesy of sophomore Dakota Reber. Reber had a massive third quarter, scoring 11 points for the Wildcats, and having 20 points by the end of the third.
In the fourth quarter, Churchill keyed in on Reber, trying to keep the towering sophomore contained. It worked initially, but Reber would break free and hit a thundering dunk over the Churchill defense. After that point, Wilsonville scored 10 baskets to Churchill's five, and was able to keep the Lancers from getting any real rhythm going. At the end of the game, the Wildcats finished on top with a score of 58-43. Dakota Reber was named the player of the game for his all-around performance.
"He's a pretty good player, and tonight he played great," Roche said. "He didn't just score. He rebounded and played defense and hustled. He's going to be great when he figures out that he can be a great all-around player. I think it's starting to sink in. When he gets started like he did tonight, good luck stopping him.
Wilsonville moved on to face the Thurston Colts in the finals of the tournament.
After carving through the entirety of the Northwest Oregon Conference, and battling it out against the best teams in the state, Wilsonville's boys basketball team made it back to an incredibly familiar setting: the state championship. This marked the fourth consecutive trip to the finals for the Wildcats, who hunted for their third straight title.
It all seemed like it was meant to be. The Thurston Colts had other ideas. Wilsonville fell 54-36 at the end of the season, snapping a 17 game winning streak.
Wilsonville was rebuffed from the first place trophy due in large part to a solid defensive outing from the Springfield based school. The Wildcats could not find any sense of scoring rhythm, scoring only single digit totals in each of the first three quarters. The fourth quarter had Wilsonville's highest output with 17 points, but Thurston upped the ante even further by putting up 19 points of its own.
The first half was especially bad for Wilsonville. The team only made 18.2 percent of its shots, going 4 of 22 from the field.
"It's a tough night to not play your best, but I think a lot of that has to do with just how good Thurston was tonight," Wilsonville head coach Chris Roche said. "Maybe we didn't play as well as we wanted, but they played great. They're the deserving champs."
The game started out evenly enough. Thurston sank a pair of free throws to get up by two, but Wilsonville answered right away with an ally-oop courtesy of sophomore Dakota Reber over Thurston's Ethan Powell. Seconds later, Wilsonville senior Zac Rossetti got a turnover at 6:51 of the quarter. Wilsonville was unable to convert on the ensuing play, which led to another Thurston layup. Reber sank a pair of free throws, and the game was again tied at fours.
From there on out, Wilsonville would struggle against the Thurston pressure.
"Thurston is such a good team," Zac Rossetti said. "The way they played tonight was amazing. All credit to them, they played one hell of a game, and they're one hell of a team. They deserved it, they were the tougher team tonight. It was a great season, really fun. I'm glad I was a part of it."
Thurston scored two more baskets in the paint, and Wilsonville attempted to answer back but could not.
Misses from Jack Roche and Caleb Larsen, as well as big blocks by the Colts defenders kept the Wilsonville scoring to a minimum. Only Larsen knocking down a free throw put any more points on the scoreboard for the Wildcats in the quarter. After eight minutes, it was 11-5 for Thurston.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same. Thurston kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard for a majority of the second quarter. Wilsonville was unable to make baskets from outside the arc, inside the key, or anywhere in between. In the meanwhile, Thurston took advantage of its size by pounding into the paint and hitting short shots.
The Colts went up by as many as 14 points before Wilsonville could find any sort of answer. That answer came in the form of a Jack Roche 3-pointer from way outside the arc, followed by a jumping floater in the paint from Larsen. Still, the momentum was squarely on Thurston's side, as they sank the final basket of the half as the buzzer blew. At halftime, it was 23-12 for the Colts.
The third quarter was more evenly contested at the start. The teams traded buckets in the early going, and sophomore Keegan Shivers got a big block a couple minutes into the half. But slowly, Thurston pulled away, applying pressure to the Wilsonville defense and stymying its offense. Rossetti, Roche, Shivers, and Reber had a bucket each, but by the end of the third quarter, it was Thurston up 35-19 over the NWOC champs.
The final quarter saw Wilsonville trade momentum swings with the Colts. After eight unanswered Thurston points, Wilsonville answered back. A string of baskets from inside the key and from the free throw line cut into the Thurston lead, drawing to 14 points with 3:30 left in the game.
Ultimately it was too little too late, and despite a Draco Bynum layup at the end of regulation, Wilsonville had lost. Thurston took the crown from the defending state champions by a margin of 54-36.
"We overall had a great season, and we just couldn't finish it out in the last game," Larsen said
After the game, Caleb Larsen and Jack Roche were named second team all-tournament players, and sophomore Dakota Reber was named first team for his effort throughout the post season.
"I just got to thank God, and it couldn't have happened without my teammates," Reber said.
Wilsonville ends its season 21-7 overall.