After the opening rounds of the state basketball tournaments, the last local teams left standing are the boys from West Linn and Wilsonville.
Here is a look at how the Lions and Wildcats made it to the final site, as well as a preview
West Linn is the class of Class 6A
Other than one out-of-state misstep, West Linn has had no trouble living up to the hype that has surrounded its program all year long.
Led by a senior class including the state’s reigning Player of the Year Jackson Shelstad, the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year in Mark Hamper, and another Three Rivers League first-teamer in Adrian Mosley, the Lions finished the regular season with a 24-1 record overall and a perfect 10-0 record in Three Rivers League play.
Those marks earned them the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A playoffs, and West Linn has backed up its seeding through the first two rounds of the tournament.
In the opening game on Wednesday, March 1, the Lions made quick work of No. 32 Century for the second time, beating the Jaguars 92-60 at home. The two teams also played in West Linn’s season opener on Dec. 6, 2022, which resulted in a 75-38 win for the Lions.
On Saturday, March 4, West Linn had another rematch from earlier in the season against No. 16 Jesuit. The first meeting ended in a 67-53 win for West Linn, but the rematch was much less close. The Lions romped to an 89-64 victory to earn a spot at the Chiles Center in Portland.
Looking ahead to the quarterfinals, West Linn will face No. 9 Central Catholic at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8. The Rams, a young team featuring standout sophomore Isaac Carr, are coming off wins over No. 24 Liberty and No. 25 Nelson, but they will face a much tougher test in the Lions.
The winner of that quarterfinal will go on to face the victor between No. 4 Lincoln and No. 5 Gresham, which feature some of the state’s top players in the Cardinals’ Moroni Seely-Roberts and the Gophers’ Esyah Pippa-White.
The other half of the bracket includes a quarterfinal matchup featuring Jalen Atkins and No. 2 Barlow against Brayden Boe and No. 7 Mountainside. But the one West Linn will really be watching is the game between No. 3 Tualatin and No. 6 Beaverton.
Looking first at Jalen Childs and Beaverton, the Lions downed the Beavers 64-48 during the Capitol City Classic tournament in Salem on Dec. 19, 2022. It’s the other team in this matchup — the defending state champions from Tualatin — who might pose the greatest threat to West Linn.
After all, Tualatin is the only team in Oregon to take West Linn to overtime, which they did at the Les Schwab Invitational. Led by the trio of Josiah Lake, Jaden Steppe and Jayden Fortier, the Timberwolves also gave the Lions their two toughest league games.
While West Linn prevailed in each of those matchups, the fourth and final meeting could come on the biggest stage Oregon has to offer: the 6A state championship game.
Wilsonville looks to defend 5A title
The Wildcats are headed back to Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, where they will look to defend the 5A state championship they won on Ralph Miller Court a year ago.
Spurred on by junior Kallen Gutridge, the team’s leading scorer, and senior point guard Maxim Wu, Wilsonville earned the No. 3 seed in this year’s bracket after posting a 20-5 regular-season record that included a 13-3 mark in the NWOC.
Wilsonville has already taken one step toward defending its state title, beating No. 14 West Albany 52-34 in the first round of the 5A playoffs on Saturday, March 4. Now, the Wildcats must take care of their quarterfinal opponent, No. 6 Woodburn, and the Bulldogs’ starring duo of Spencer Karsseboom and Cruz Veliz.
If successful, Wilsonville will play the winner between Nick Robertson’s La Salle team and No. 15 Crescent Valley, which pulled a huge upset on Saturday by defeating No. 2 Churchill. In two previous matchups this year, Wilsonville beat La Salle 59-40 before falling 52-50 in the rematch.
Should they meet again for a third time, it could be for a place in the state championship game.
The other spot in the state title match could feature Pearson Carmichael and No. 1 Summit, the most dangerous team vying for Wilsonville’s crown. The Storm first play No. 8 North Eugene, and with a victory, will face the winner between No. 4 Redmond and No. 5 Mountain View.
Perhaps adding to Wilsonville’s fortunes is that the Wildcats’ third star — junior Kyle Counts — will be able to look up and see a familiar name in the rafters. His grandfather is Oregon State University basketball legend Mel Counts, who was a three-year All-American for the Beavers before a 12-year NBA career.
For more information on the 6A and 5A state tournaments, visit OSAA.org.