The COVID-19 pandemic may have moved the 2021 high school basketball season, shortened teams' schedules and canceled state tournaments, but there were some things it couldn't touch.
Here's what survived — longtime rivalries, hard-fought battles and big-time matchups.
The Wilsonville and La Salle boys basketball teams proved all that in spades during their matchup at La Salle High School on Friday, June 18.
The Falcons led early, but saw the Wildcats fight back into contention at the half, take over in the third quarter and pull away in the fourth to win 48-35 in both teams' regular-season finales.
"I think we entered (the second half) with more purpose and we executed well trying to get the plays coach was calling out and we did a great job of getting people open and moving the ball and that got us shots for everybody on the floor," said Wilsonville senior wing/post Riley Scanlan, who led all scorers with 33 points (on 14 of 22 shooting from the field with two 3-pointers and a 3 of 3 day at the foul line), along with seven rebounds and one assist. "I think they all played fantastic."
"It feels absolutely amazing for sure," said senior post/wing Cason Dougall, who added four points (on 1 of 4 shooting from the field and a 2 of 2 day at the line), along with eight rebounds and two assists. "It was their senior night, but we just decided we wanted to play as hard as we could and leave it all out there and we expected good things to happen."
With the win — Wilsonville's 13th straight — the Wildcats improved to 9-0 in Northwest Oregon Conference play and 13-0 overall. They also extended their five-year NWOC winning streak to 76 games. La Salle, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and fell to 6-3 in NWOC play and 8-3 overall.
"It was mainly on us because we didn't pick it up very much in the second half," said La Salle senior guard Nicolas Boyd, who led his team with 12 points (on 4 of 14 shooting from the field with two 3-pointers and a 2 of 2 day at the line), along with two rebounds and one assist. "If anything, we let down because we felt we were close."
"I didn't think there was much that separated us in this game, just the intensity," added senior wing Jacob Owens, who added eight points (on 3 of 8 shooting from the field with one 3-pointer and a 1 of 2 day at the line), along with four rebounds, one steal and one assist. "Those guys brought it and a couple of them made big-time shots and we missed a couple that could have made it go the other way."
After a slow offensive start by both teams, the Falcons rallied from a 9-5 deficit near the end of the first quarter to take their biggest lead of the game at 18-11 when Boyd buried a "three" from the right wing with 5 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first half.
During its 13-2 run, La Salle got a 3-pointer from Ian Simmons, saw Nick Robertson hit a floater in the key, Owens knock down a "three" from the left corner and follow up with a fast break basket assisted by Finbar O'Brien, and Boyd cap the run with his long 3-pointer.
The Wildcats did not break, however. They closed the half on a 10-1 run that gave them a 21-19 edge at the break, getting back-to-back baskets inside from Logan Thebiay, a three-point play by Scanlan, and then another three-point play when Kallen Gutridge made a steal, scored at the other end and converted the ensuing foul shot with 0.3 seconds left in the half.
Wilsonville carried its momentum into the second half, too, piecing together a 13-4 stretch over the first 5:55 of the third quarter to lead 34-23 with 2:05 left in the period. Scanlan scored all 13 points in that stretch, hitting inside off a Maxim Wu pass, connecting off a reverse spin into the lane, knocking down two foul shots, rebounding his own miss and scoring, drilling a "three" from the right corner and hitting a left-handed drive for Wilsonville's 11-point lead.
The Falcons tried to answer with a Robertson "three" and an inside hoop by Owens, and were still within 36-30 when Boyd connected in traffic 15 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But Wilsonville took over from there, with Scanlan scoring the Wildcats' next 10 points to push his team's lead to 44-35 with 2:40 left and essentially seal the victory.
As dominant as Scanlan was against La Salle, he and Dougall were both quick to credit the efforts of their teammates.
"They did a great job of being very poised and moving the ball," Scanlan said. "Every single one of them — I can't point out one of them that didn't have a great game."
"Riley had an amazing game, but we have a lot of young guys that, coming into this season, we didn't know what was going to happen," Dougall said. "I'm extremely proud of them."
On their side of the ledger, the Falcons said they would learn from their loss and improve from it.
"If we play stronger defense than we did tonight and move the ball and play our basketball next week, I think we can do something special," Boyd said. "We may be an underdog in some people's eyes, but to us, we can beat anybody in the state."
"I think going into the end of the year, there's no better way to end it," Owens said. "We didn't think there was going to be a state tournament and now we're playing in a hard bracket (against) three of the best teams in the state so it's good."
Robertson added eight points and Simmons five for La Salle, while Thebiay and Enzo Chimienti scored four each for Wilsonville.
Both teams will play next week in the blue and green brackets of the culminating week tournaments.
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