West Linn survives a test at Lakeridge and moves to 8-0

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Kevin Edwards puts up a contested shot during Tuesday's victory over Lake Oswego, helping keep the Lions unbeaten against 6A opponents this year. 
The West Linn boys basketball team fended off another upset threat last week, pulling away in the final minutes to top Lakeridge on the road 74-64. Then, after a 68-45 win over Lake Oswego Tuesday, the Lions have clinched at least a share of the league title with two games remaining in the regular season.

West Linn took the Pacers' best shot last week. Lakeridge, which wasn't at full strength in its previous contest with the Lions, was eager for another shot at the top-ranked team in the state and did everything they could to get in West Linn's head.

It was a physical game from start to finish, featuring three technical fouls. As was the case in the earlier meeting between the two teams, Lakeridge got off to a fast start, shooting the ball well and building a quick lead.

The Pacers led by as much as seven points early in the contest as the Lions missed a handful of shots from close to the basket.

West Linn closed with a flurry, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Payton Prithcard to give West Linn a 23-22 after the opening stanza.

“I think early on, we had some 1-on-1 battles going on and we weren't moving the ball. (Lakeridge) did a great job breaking our press and we didn't rotate well,” coach Eric Viuhkola said.

The second quarter featured a pair of elite point guards dueling back and forth. The Pacers' Reggie Oliver had nine of his 16 first-half points in the quarter while Pritchard paced West Linn's offense.

But Lakeridge continued to match the Lions basket for basket, trailing by just one point at the half 42-41.

“The game was a little chippy. It's a big rivalry game and it's definitely good to have some adversity,” Pritchard said.

The Lions seemed on the verge of pulling away early in the third quarter, displaying their athleticism with a series of high-flying plays that brought the lead to seven points, its largest of the game.

But Lakeridge buckled down on defense, rattling off a pair of unanswered buckets and whittled the deficit down to just three points with one quarter to play.

Lakeridge opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer to tie the contest and drained another in the period to make it 62-62 with less than four minutes to play in the game.

However, the Pacers were in significant foul trouble with both Jake Spurgeon and Eric Dungey hampered with four for the entire final period.

After the teams traded turnovers, a bucket by Ryan Shearmire gave West Linn a four-point lead late.

“We threw the ball away twice down the stretch which can't happen but it seems like every time we play here it's this kind of a game where it's close in the fourth quarter,” Viuhkola said.

Following a defensive stop, Shearmire was fouled by Dungey, his fifth of the game, and a technical foul was also assessed to Lakeridge.

Instead of leading by four without possession, the Lions suddenly led by six and had the ball with 48 seconds remaining.

Pritchard then calmly knocked down free throws to ice the contest as West Linn closed the game on a 12-2 run. Pritchard finished with 24 points to lead the Lions.

“We just had to slow it down and play a little more under control,” Pritchard said.

Tuesday, West Linn took on Lake Oswego at home, a team that gave the Lions' offense fits in the second half earlier this year.

But the Lions had few issues this time around, getting off to a blistering start and putting the game away early in the second half.

West Linn knocked down six 3-pointers in the first quarter, immediately sending the Lakers reeling. Anthony Mathis was unconscious in the first half, draining his first four attempts from behind the arc.

West Linn built a 25-12 lead after the first quarter before Lake Oswego adjusted. The Lakers went on an 8-2 run early in the second quarter to claw back into contention. Lake Oswego had success working the ball inside to its post, Max Dinesen, who had perhaps his best game of the season.

West Linn led 34-22 at the break and then used defense to start putting the game out of reach. The Lions forced three quick Lake Oswego turnovers in the third period and turned to Shearmire for offense. He had seven of his 15 points in the third quarter and also helped draw a fourth foul on Dinesen as West Linn's lead swelled to 50-35.

The Lakers could never find enough offense to make a comeback attempt this time as the Lions cruised to a victory. Mathis led West Linn with 20 points

The Lions will play out the string against Canby and Oregon City as they prepare for their state title defense.

By Matt Sherman
Sports Editor
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