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In a battle of top teams, the Wildcats were able to past the Mid-Willamette Conference champions with persistent inside game

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Junior Dakota Reber was one of the breakout players of the state basketball tournament, leading Wilsonville through the playoffs.

In what wound up being one of the closest games of the season, Wilsonville and Silverton threw down over the course of 32 minutes in the state semifinals. After four, tense quarters the Wildcats moved on to the finals with a 50-45 win.

"I think this is why you play," Wilsonville coach Chris Roche said. "You want to play the very best teams, you want to see how you measure up, and see how far you can go. If you're not seeking that, why are you playing? Tomorrow is even tougher, and we'll see if we can handle it."

The contest was very much a grind, as both teams typically potent outside shooting games were largely absent. Wilsonville had a lone "3" from junior Keegan Shivers, and Silverton shot just 2-of-12 collectively.

Instead, both teams battled their way into the paint and went for layup after layup, and the occasional dunk. That was where juniors Dakota Reber and Keegan Shivers shined, along with senior Jack Roche. The trio combined for 42 of the teams 50 points, shooting 17-of-29 collectively.

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Junior Gabe Reichle launches a mid range jumper against Silverton.

"We probably went into the paint because we didn't make much from the outside," Chris Roche said. "We can keep jacking those deep 3s up, but it's not happening today. Maybe we ought to play a little more aggressively and attack the paint. We also are built that way. We have two great posts, and we play inside out in general. We have a great point guard too. We want to play inside, especially down the stretch. We adjusted to the game and made the plays we need to make."

"It feels good to dunk in this environment, but it came from good passes from my teammates," Reber said of his dunks. "It just gives us more energy."

The team struggled from the free throw line though, shooting just 11-of-23 from the charity stripe, a less than stellar 47.8 percent. Only junior Gabe Reichle was perfect at that part of the game, shooting 3-for-3.

The biggest difference between the two teams came in the hustle stats. Wilsonville outrebounded Silverton 33-23, and passed better as well, with 10 assists to the Foxes 5. The Wildcats also were stronger defensively, getting four blocks and 10 steals. Shivers and senior Sam Westing had three steals each. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Senior Sam Westing pulls up for the jumper against Silverton.

"We knew that they had a ton of threats on the floor," Shivers said of Silverton. "That team is really hard to defend, they have so many different threats. We just had to adjust during the game, and it worked out in the end."

The game was back and forth, but one of the deciding momentum swings happened in the waning minutes of the third quarter. Wilsonville found itself down 31-30, and Silverton very nearly stretched that lead to three. A missed layup by Silverton's Jonah Downey led to a breakaway opportunity on the other end of the court. Senior Zach Rivers raked in the defensive rebound, and hit Reichle for the and-one layup. From there, Wilsonville built up the lead to eight.

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Senior Jack Roche consistently led Wilsonville with assists, finding the open man and feeding them the ball.

The last momentum swing came with 1 minute, 15 seconds to go in the game. After the Wildcats battled back from a single point deficit with a Keegan Shivers free throw, the game was tied up at 43-43. Westing got a steal from Silverton's Josiah Roth and gave the ball off to Jack Roche for the layup in the paint. Wilsonville once again had the lead, and did not relinquish it for the rest of the game.

Wilsonville advanced into the finals against Churchill.

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