The Tualatin boys basketball team completed its quest for back-to-back 6A state titles with a dominating 60-47 win over a West Linn squad that was heavily favored coming into the tournament ranked No. 17 nationally in the Sports Illustrated Super 25 poll.
“We wanted it more. We weren’t content with one title,” Tualatin senior Jaden Steppe said. “We put in a lot of hard work and discipline and stayed together as a team.”
The Three Rivers rivals met three times during the regular season, with West Linn winning each of the meetings. But with the state trophy on the line, Tualatin started fast and never looked back.
The Timberwolves won the opening tip, and Josiah Lake took the ball the distance, squeezing between two defenders in the lane to convert the layup.
Four seconds into the game, Tualatin had a lead it would never surrender.
The Timberwolves scored the game’s first 10 points, while West Linn missed its first ten shots.
“That was a big part of our game plan,” Lake said. “We wanted to punch them in the face and hold the lead.”
West Linn superstar Jackson Shelstad, who has signed to play at Oregon next season, converted a pair of acrobatic layups to bring the Lions’ fans to their feet for the first time.
Steppe countered with a step-back 12-footer from the right side, followed by a bucket in close on the Wolves’ next trip.
Tualatin finished the first half with Lake dribbling in and out of West Linn defenders before driving into the lane and drawing a crowd. Lake spotted teammate Jack Wagner alone in the corner for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put Tualatin up 30-16 at the break.
Wagner kept it going in the third quarter, sinking another 3, followed by a steal and a breakaway layup. Steppe had the team’s next two buckets, and the Timberwolves had their biggest lead of the night 39-20, midway through the third quarter.
Every time West Linn made a bucket, the Timberwolves were quick to snag the ball out of the net and push the pace the other way. They had their foot on the gas and dared West Linn to keep up.
“We got 8 or 9 players deep on our bench. It’s something we took advantage of all season, and we took advantage of it again tonight,” Lake said.
West Linn pulled to within single digits at different stages of the fourth quarter, but never got closer than seven points.
Any comeback hopes for the Lions disappeared when Lake swiped a steal and raced alone to the hoop for a two-handed dunk that shook the backboard.
“I was far enough out front, I knew I had to do it — I couldn’t pass up a chance like that,” Lake said.
The jam put Tualatin in charge 52-42 nearing two minutes to play.
Lake led the Timberwolves with 20 points and three steals, while Steppe was named the team’s Moda Health Player of the Game, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Tualatin also became the only team within the state to beat West Linn this season.
The Timberwolves scored a 68-55 win over No. 2 seed Barlow in the previous night’s semifinals.
Tualatin led throughout the game, but saw the Bruins pull within five midway through the fourth quarter.
Tualatin called a timeout with 1:39 to play, and drew up a football play to secure the victory. Wagner, the QB during football season, inbounded the ball from the far baseline. He pulled back and launched a perfect long bomb that hit teammate A.J. Noland in stride behind the defense. He took one dribble and dunked the ball home.
“We’ve had that play in our book for a while, and Jake is my QB during football, so we have that connection,” Noland said. “We’ve played in so many close games that we are used to it. We don’t panic, we unite.”
Noland finished with 17 points, including a trio of makes from behind the arc.
“Anytime you get off to a hot start, it motivates everyone,” Noland said. “You see the ball go through the net, and it helps everyone’s shot.”
Tualatin started the tournament with a 63-54 quarterfinal win over Beaverton. Lake led the Timberwolves with 28 points, sinking 11 of 12 (91.7%) free throws.
Lake was a unanimous choice to the all-tournament team, averaging 25 points in the three Chiles Center games.
The Tualatin girls won the Three Rivers League title this season, but suffered back-to-back losses at the Chiles Center. Tabi Searle led the Wolves with 10 points in a 37-32 quarterfinal loss to Barlow. Tualatin fell to West Salem 40-37 in the consolation bracket, with Jaylyn Arosemena and Olivia Poulivaati scoring nine points apiece.