Coach Curtiss says he believes his charges have as good a chance as anyone of going all the way

La Salle Prep boys basketball coach Jared Curtiss likes his charges’ chances as they gear up for postseason play.

The Tri-Valley Conference co-champion Falcons (19-3, 9-1) enter the Class 4A state playoffs ranked second only to Philomath (19-3) in the Class OSAA RPI rankings.

Their only losses at the 4A level were to Philomath (45-32) on Jan. 4 and to TVC co-champion and cross-town rival Gladstone (45-43) on Feb. 12. Their third loss was to Valley Catholic (42-35), the top-ranked team in Class 3A, in their second game of the season.

The Falcons are averaging 60 points a game, to 46 points by their opponents.

“We think we have as good a chance as anybody [of going all the way],” said Curtiss. “We just have to do what we’ve done in the 59 practices we’ve had this season in actual games.”

Curtiss cautioned, “We have the second overall seed, which translates into having the second-worst seed [as an opponent in our March 8 playoff game]. But we have a lot to shore up before that March 8 game. We need to defend speed better, finish transition opportunities and shoot free throws better....”

Curtiss added, “We are a real match-up issue for most teams. We shoot the 3 so well, and we have five posts who can go down low and get us paint points. We have great aggregate length.... I think one of the biggest things for our team is realizing when teams are either on runs or on the ropes. We have to end 4-0 runs and continued 6-0 runs — with the whole game in mind, and not just shoot the open shots. Once you get to 16 teams, really, any team can get a win, home or away....

“Reece Wible is a key component for us, as he’s the league’s best shooter. Reece needs to stay on the floor. Our posts have to play through contact, where we normally have some height advantage. Our point guards, Luke Kolln and Michael Edwards, need to make sure our offense and defense communicates.”

The Falcons had it in cruise control as they breezed to a 52-43 win over Molalla in last week’s Tri-Valley Conference league final, building an 18-9 advantage in the first quarter and a 27-15 lead by halftime.

The Falcons stretched their advantage to 18 points early in the fourth quarter and Curtiss turned the play over to reserves for the final 3-1/2 minutes of the game.

It was “senior night,” and Curtiss played his five seniors — Kolln, Grant Cameron, Christopher Dowhaniuk, Thomas Callahan and Ryan Cavanagh — to start the game.

Wible (16 points) and Keeston Smith (16 points) paced the Falcons in scoring. Wible hit 4-of-6 shots from downtown.

Led by Kolln (3 assists), Smith (3 assists) and Edwards (3 assists), the Falcons had assists on 15 of their 18 baskets, and they only turned the ball over eight times.

La Salle will host 19th-ranked Newport (13-11) in Saturday’s round of 16 of the Class 4A state playoffs, with the winner advancing to the Class 4A State Tournament in Corvallis.

The Tigers have held their own with TVC teams that they’ve met this season, losing 61-58 at Madras and defeating Molalla 49-48.

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