BEAVERTON – Coming off its first loss of the season, West Linn's nationally ranked boys basketball team got just what it needed Thursday night.
The Lions (14-1), No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll, had to come from behind in a hostile environment for a 68-49 nonleague win at co-No. 4 Mountainside.
The victory helped ease the sting of Monday's 63-53 loss at De La Salle (Calif.), the team's first game after rising to No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25 national rankings.
“I just love the attitude of our team after that loss,” West Linn senior forward Mark Hamper said. “I feel like we were motivated and hungry for the next game. Just hungry to show the state that we're still the top dogs, and we're going to defend it.”
Senior guard Sam Leavitt scored 18 points and senior guards Jackson Shelstad and Adrian Mosley added 17 points apiece for the Lions, who trailed 28-24 late in the second quarter before locking down on defense and putting away the Mavericks (10-5).
“It was big for us to get back and play another really good team from Oregon,” said Shelstad, who is averaging a team-high 28.4 points per game. “It wasn't just a cupcake game. They're a good team, so it was good to get another test coming after the loss.”
The game closed the book on the nonleague portion of West Linn's schedule, which included titles in the Capitol City Classic and Les Schwab Invitational. The Lions have defeated No. 2 Tualatin, co-No. 4s Beaverton and Mountainside, No. 6 Jesuit and No. 7 Barlow as well as several out-of-state powers.
“I complimented the kids,” said first-year West Linn coach Robert Key, whose team opens Three Rivers League play Tuesday at Lake Oswego. “I said, 'What a great preseason, one of the toughest preseasons I've ever been a part of, and you guys did a great job.' I commended them.”
The Lions, who beat Mountainside 77-50 in the third-place game at the 6A tournament last year, appeared as if they might be in trouble in the first half Thursday. Mountainside erased an early seven-point deficit and pulled ahead 28-24 on back-to-back turn-around jumpers by 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard Brayden Boe.
West Linn got a three-pointer by Leavitt and a driving basket by Hamper to lead 29-28 at half, then turned up its defense in the third quarter to take control of the game. Boe, who had been using his size to back down defenders, was met with more resistance in the second half as the physical Hamper, Leavitt and Mosley bodied up on him.
“We talked about rotating three guys at him,” Key said. “He got us in foul trouble a little bit, so I threw my three guns at him. I think we wore him down a lot.”
Boe had 12 points in the first half and finished with 25, but 10 of his points came after the Lions had opened a 49-34 lead with five minutes left in the game.
“Boe was getting whatever he wanted in the first half,” Shelstad said. “In that halftime conversation, we talked about shutting him down. I think we did a lot better job of that in the second half.”
With Boe held in check, offense was a struggle for Mountainside, which also got 12 points from freshman Eli Vizconde (four three-pointers) and 10 points from 6-5 senior post Jaylin Ormond.
“Our shots weren't falling in the second half,” Mavericks coach Dustin Hewitt said. “A team like that, you've got to make shots. I think their physicality kind of wore us down a little bit. We got tired. A lot of misses were short. It's just something we'll get better at. We'll learn from this.”
The Lions – who feature three key players from the 6A champion football team in Leavitt, Hamper and Shelstad -- take pride in being physical.
“We know we're a physical team,” Hamper said. “That's a strong attribute of ours. Any chance we can get just to use it and show it off, we're going to do it. And that's what we did tonight.”
Monday's loss foiled any chances of a perfect season for West Linn. The Lions, who overcame major size disadvantages to win the LSI, struggled with De La Salle's length. And their reputation as a nationally ranked team preceded them.
“They were ready for us,” Shelstad said. “It seemed like they knew every single thing, like all of our plays. It was kind of like we had at the Les Schwab – it was at their gym, they had all their fans, their student section, so they kind of had the momentum the whole game. We got down, and they're the kind of team that can really shoot it.”
Still, the Lions believe they can turn the setback into a positive going forward.
“It was a reality check,” Shelstad said. “I hate losing, but that was the time to do it, preseason, against a good team from California. Learn some lessons, realize we're not a perfect team. We have a lot of stuff we can work on.”