West Linn Lions shock 6A, win boys state championship
The unheralded Lions, who didn’t even win their league, built an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead, then survived numerous turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch to defeat the Rams.
Mathis, a sophomore guard, hit three 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter. Shearmire, a senior forward, also grabbed nine rebounds for West Linn (23-6).
Austin Dyer had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead Central Catholic (24-5).
Both schools reached the championship game off semifinal upsets. Central Catholic knocked off four-time 6A champion Jesuit, while West Linn handed Lake Oswego its first loss of the season.
West Linn won the final seven games of the season to capture the school’s second boys basketball state title. The Lions won their other championship in 1997.
“I kept telling people four or five weeks ago, we really started playing well. Off the charts how much they improved,” West Linn coach Eric Viuhkola said. “They went from one of my least favorite teams to one of my most favorite teams because of the way they improved.”
The Lions put Viuhkola’s faith to the test with their turnover-filled stretch drive.
“That was ugly. I felt like we survived it more than we won it,” Viuhkola said.
Dyer got Central Catholic off to a fast start, scoring seven points to put the Rams ahead 9-4. West Linn’s defense stiffened, as Central Catholic never scored consecutive baskets during the remainder of the half. Dyer scored nine first-half points, all during the first six minutes as he didn’t take a shot in the second quarter.
West Linn took its first lead early in the second quarter 12-11 on a free throw by Payton Pritchard. Shearmire scored the Lions’ final seven points of the quarter to help West Linn to a 19-17 halftime lead.
The Lions scored the first six points of the third quarter to open up a 25-17 lead, but the Central Catholic answered with a 6-0 run of its own to draw to within two points. West Linn led 31-27 after three quarters, then inched away from the Rams with a flurry of 3-pointers. Mathis hit two, and Pritchard and Hayden Coppedge each made one during a four-minute spurt to give the Lions a 43-32 lead with 3:07 remaining.
Central Catholic didn’t fold, though, as the Rams pulled to within 44-41 on Dyer’s rebound and basket with 55 seconds remaining. Central Catholic missed four shots during the final 39 seconds, and then Shearmire clinched the win with a last-second free throw.
In consolation finals, Lake Oswego defeated Jesuit 52-32 to take third place, while Southridge was a 60-58 winner over Sunset in the fourth place game.
The Lions defeated McMinnville 74-55 in the first round of the 6A state playoffs Feb. 26. The Lions moved on and beat Westview 69-54 in the second round. In the state quarterfinals, West Linn beat Grant 51-50 after Shearmire hit two free throws in the closing seconds. The Lions then squeaked by league rival Lake Oswego 37-36 in the semifinals. Lake Oswego came into the game with a 27-game winning streak this season and had defeated West Linn twice this season.