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The Wildcats shake off a six-point first half and scoreless second quarter to win.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Wilsonville senior Enzo Chimienti leaps into the air at the end of his team's 34-30 win over Silverton in the Class 5A state championship at Gill Coliseum on Saturday, March 12.Championship day could not have started any worse for the Wilsonville boys basketball team.

But it couldn't have ended any better.

The Wildcats, after trailing the entire first half and failing to score a single point in the second quarter, came through big-time in the second half to beat Silverton 34-30 in the Class 5A state championship game at Gill Coliseum on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis.

"It feels great," said Wilsonville senior guard Maxim Wu, a first-team all-tournament selection who scored three points (on 1 of 2 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer), along with four rebounds, three assists and one block. "It's probably the best feeling in the world right now."

"It means a lot to me," said senior guard Enzo Chimienti, who led all scorers with 15 points (on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer and a 2 of 4 day at the free throw line), along with four rebounds. "I've been dreaming about this since I was a kid and I just had the seniors from last year and the year before in my heart while playing this game. They weren't able to compete in this tournament like they wanted to do so bad. They all wanted to be here and I wanted to win it all for them."

"It feels great. Really great," said junior post Tristan Davis — a second-team all-tourney selection — who finished with four points (on 1 of 3 shooting from the field and a 2 of 4 day at the foul line), along with five rebounds and one assist. "We were trying to win for a purpose. We were trying to win for our past seniors so we just had to come out and play tougher."

With the win — No. 3 Wilsonville's 16th straight — the Wildcats finished the year at 27-2 overall after winning the Northwest Oregon Conference. No. 4 Silverton, meanwhile, saw its 18-game winning streak snapped and ended its year at 23-6 after winning the Mid-Willamette Conference.

The Silver Foxes were led by senior guard Jordan McCarty's 10 points (on 2 of 13 shooting from the floor, including one 3-pointer and a 6 of 8 day at the foul line), along with one rebound, three assists and a steal. Senior teammate Ryan Redman-Brown added nine points (on 4 of 9 shooting from the field and one 3-pointer), along with seven rebounds, one assist and two steals.



As to that painful first half, the Wildcats went just 2 of 5 from the field in the first quarter and scored just six points — two each by Thebiay, sophomore Kallen Gutridge and Chimienti — while turning the ball over four times.

And that was the good quarter of the opening half for Wilsonville.

Already down 9-6 at the end of the first, the Wildcats then went scoreless over the entire second period. There, dogged by Silverton's physical, hounding defense, Wilsonville went 0 for 3 from the field, missed its only two foul shots and turned the ball over another five times.

The only bright spot in that dismal opening half was the fact that the Silver Foxes didn't do much on offense, either. Indeed, with a golden chance to build on its first-quarter lead, Silverton went just 1 of 8 in the second, getting the only points of the frame when Redman-Brown took a pass from Elijah Haugen and knocked down a jump shot a minute into the period to push ahead 11-6.

But after halftime — and a good talk by longtime head coach Chris Roche (he has now led Wilsonville to five state championships and five consecutive title-game appearances) — the Wildcats came out with a new attitude and energy in the third quarter that set the table for their eventual victory.

"That sluggish start wasn't going to sit with me," said senior post Logan Thebiay, who finished with six points, four rebounds and three steals en route to a spot on the all-tournament second team. "I was a little angry, but in the second half we came back. As soon as we started (setting good screens) — as soon as we did that — I said, 'We're good to go now.'"

"The first half, Silverton played great defense," Davis said. "I've got to give it to them. It's probably the best defense we've seen all season, but then we had a talk. (Roche has) been winning for years so you've got to believe what he says."

"The first half, we were a little flustered by their physicality, but in the locker room, we knew that if we just stuck to the game plan and moved the ball, shots would fall, and hopefully, we would take the lead," Wu said.

And that, finally, is just what happened in the third quarter. As badly as the Cats had shot in the first half, they seemed to get over it at halftime and came out hot in the third quarter, getting a couple early free throws from Gutridge and then hitting four of their next five shots from the floor (including a Thebiay dunk), with Wu rattling home a 3-pointer from the top of the key for Wilsonville's first lead at 17-15 with 2:31 to go in the period.

At the same time, Silverton began to struggle with its shooting, going just 3 of 11 in the period — two of those makes from Haugen — and falling behind 23-17 entering the fourth quarter.

There, the Wildcats dropped an 8-4 run on the Foxes over the first 5:27 of the period to extend their lead to 31-21 on a Chimienti layin.

The Wilsonville lead was still 10 points — at 32-23 on a pair of Davis free throws with 41 seconds remaining — before Silverton closed the gap late with four McCarty free throws and a last-second "three" by Neil Efimov before running out of time.

No one played a bigger role in the Wildcats' turnaround second half than Chimienti. The senior guard almost singlehandedly turned around his team's shooting woes in the second half, knocking down five straight shots from the field (including a 3-pointer) and 2 of 4 foul shots in the game's final 13:31.

"The first half, it maybe wasn't nerves, but we were playing kind of weak, kind of soft," Chimienti said. "Coach brought us in at halftime and told us we needed to play tougher and play more confident and we went out and did that.

"We knew that Silverton was going to be an aggressive team and I can't back down from that. Nobody can back down from that. We just had to play our game and play tough. We just played tougher. We played as a team more. That's what got it done."


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