Skyhawks storm South Salem in season opener
Hop aboard the Skyhawk boys basketball hype train when there's still space.
By the time the Les Schwab Invitational rolls around in late December and Metro League play hits the full throttle in January, there might not be any room left.
Southridge — considered the prohibitive favorite to win Metro and a top-five contender for the Class 6A crown — gave a dazzling glimpse of its seasonal promise on Friday, stonewalling South Salem 82-63 at the Cody Hardin Invitational at Tigard High School.
Senior shooting guard Bo Quinlan, a transfer from Life Christian, was brilliant with a team-high 20 points, 16 of which came in the first half. 6-foot-8 post Filip Fullerton showed off his ever improving, burgeoning all-around game with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. Junior sharpshooter Brock Henry drilled a pair of threes and showed off his enhanced hops with a two-handed slam in the second half. And there were sources of energy and output up and down the roster. Zach Galvin gave Southridge a big lift off the bench with his keen passing and defensive instincts. Ben Pak earned his first career start and played a sound, solid game at point guard. Kade Hustler and Bradley Bickler were energy bigs, exerting toughness and physicality on the glass, helping Fullerton provide rim protection.
Slated as the No. 4 team in the state to begin the season, all six of the Metro coaches picked Southridge to win league this year, which would be the program's first conference title in school history. Impressive efforts like Friday night will only draw more attention to the Skyhawks' talented cache of weapons and engaging defensive versatility. Such positive outings are sure to draw a favorable seed at the LSI, where the state's best descend in a de facto pre-state tournament gala, with potential matchups against national powers such as Oak Hill and Mater Dei down the line. But that's neither here nor there. The Skyhawks aren't feeding into the preseason publicity, but rather digging into the day-to-day grind of getting better.
"We don't look at the rankings, we just focus on what we're capable of and what our ceiling is," Henry said. "This was a good win, but we do have a lot of stuff to work on to get that Metro title or get down to the Chiles Center (the site of the 6A state tournament)."
"We play for ourselves, play for our coaches and trust the system — we don't play into the rankings too much," Galvin said. "A win like this isn't anything special, but it's a good way to start the season."
It was the Skyhawks' season opener, with three new players in the starting lineup and a fresh offensive philosophy, against the No. 8 team in 6A who sport two elite guards in Jaden Skinner and Tyler Wadleigh. Rust and rough patches were to be expected. But in reality, Southridge looked electrifying and explosive, scoring with ease in a myriad of ways with a number of highly skilled individuals like Quinlan and Fullerton while playing smothering defense over the final three quarters of action.
"When we trust what we do, that's when we play the best," Fullerton said. "We stuck to what we always do, believe in what we can do and played our butts off. Everyone was getting shots, everyone was hitting. I think this is just a sign of things to come."
"You know if you're not hitting somebody else is — it's really fun to play that way," Henry said. "We have a lot of firepower and can get a lot of guys going."
The Skyhawks exploded for 31 second-quarter points as Quinlan got hot from three-point land with a trio of net-ripping triples including a buzzer-beating hoist after the 6-foot-3 guard discarded a Saxon defender with a hard behind-the-back dribble to create separation and calmly canned the left angle look. With Portland State head coach Barret Peery sitting courtside, checking out his future post, Fullerton exhibited an enhanced floor game, pounding the backboards, catching entry passes and finishing while stepping out and hitting a pick-and-pop jumper after a nice find from Galvin. Galvin got the ball moving, finding the hot hands in Quinlan and Fullerton who combined scored 22 of Southridge's 31 second-quarter points. But what turned the game around and helped Southridge erase a 26-19 first-quarter deficit was its team defense. It helped expunge the early seven-point deficit and was the driving force in throttling the Metro favorites to an 11-point halftime lead. Southridge strung stops together, turned the Saxons over and held South Salem to one shot on the boards by dialing up the intensity and exuberance.
"I think we've might've come out a little soft on defense...we kind of got punched in the face," Fullerton said. "But energy turned that game around. Once we started talking on defense, getting on each other, it was great. We wanted to contain their guards and I think we did a great job of that."
From the end of the start of the second quarter until the 3:16 mark in the fourth when head coach Phil Vesel pulled his starters, Southridge only gave up 28 points. Skinner and Wadleigh, who were penetrating, shot-making handfuls in the first quarter, were rendered helpless in the second half by the Skyhawks' extended, shrewd matchup zone that contained the Saxon backcourt and kept them out of the paint completely. Wadleigh was held scoreless in the second half after pouring in 10 points in the first. And while Skinner had a game-high 22, eight of those came later in the fourth when the game was out of reach. Southridge is going to get hot and score in bunches for long stretches a lot this season, that's for sure. There are too many bucket getters, too many sharpshooters, and athletic posts not to flourish in Southridge's entertaining, high-flying offensive scheme. But if they lock in defensively and continue to buy into that end of the floor, the possibilities are endless.
"As the game settled in we started getting stops and said 'We've been here before, this is what we've practiced,'" Henry said. "From there, our offense just got into a rhythm. We were able to pick up the pace."
"We buckled down, started trusting our guys would get to spots," Galvin added. "And once our defense started going it got the energy going that translated to offense."
Indeed, Southridge's energy and activity on defense directly fed into its high-paced, transition attack. Quinlan and Henry swished consecutive threes in the third quarter. Then Galvin snatched a defensive rebound, took one up court dribble and fired a two-handed outlet to Kyle Mabray who caught the dime and laid it in to give Southridge a 62-43 lead. The Skyhawks extended their lead to as much as 78-54 in the fourth as Bickler and Henry both went up high for highlight-reel slams.
"We have the capability to wear teams out," Henry said. "If we're rolling on offense and getting stops on 'D', it doesn't stop when our starting five comes out. It's continuous."
Pak scored eight points including six-of-six at the free throw line. Bickler added seven points and Galvin had five for Southridge who hosts Wilson on Tuesday at 7:15 for its home opener.