Coming off of a 50 point win against the Centennial Eagles, the Wolves ventured up to Liberty High School in Hillsboro where they’d take another crucial win in their last pre-league game.
This 56-45 win advanced them to a 6 – 6 season record and set back Liberty to 6 – 6.
No team was heavily favored to win prior to the game with Tualatin ranked 33 and Liberty 30, but Tualatin may have ultimately found their rhythm.
“We came out in the first three or four games playing selfish a bit. It was more like one-on-one with us thinking, ‘I could take you,’” Malik Ross (#11) said. “Now our whole team plays for each other, all together, moving the ball, getting great shots and we’re a team, we love each other. That’s what a team does.”
Starting in the first quarter, scoring was kept at a minimum. With three seconds left in Q1, Jackson Passaglia (#10) shot deep for a three-pointer, but Liberty took the lack of time as an opportunity and finished out the period with a three of their own and a score of 12-8 with Tualatin leading. Even still, the Timberwolves were only able to make three of 13 shots from the court thus far.
“The game was up and down but the momentum was on their side,” Ross said.
“It went a little slow, we kind of didn’t hit our shots that we wanted to hit, especially out of the zone. So that threw us off for what we wanted to finish at,” John Miller (#20) added.
From what had started as an uneventful game, Miller turned into a spectacle.
After Noah Ogoli (#3) had scored both a three and a two in the second quarter, Miller received a rebound and an open court. He took the golden opportunity. With long strides and one sizable leap, Miller dunked and swung down from the hoop.
Not 30 seconds later, with Ross’ hands on the ball, Miller ran through Liberty, jumped up, caught Ross’ pass midair to alley-oop the ball. Miller did attempt a third dunk right after, but with varied success.
With the Wolves’ score improved to 21-8, there was still 6:10 left on the clock for the half.
The teams were thought to be equivalent in the first quarter and Liberty had to up the ante in an attempt to retaliate. Still, the half ended 30-17 and quarter three with 37-28.
Liberty had time to take the game, and riding on a three-pointer in the fourth, they brought the game to 40-34 with 6:06 to go.
But with Miller on the court, troubles were bound to strike the Falcons. Miller had been attracting most of the attention so far, and not all of it was positive. It became clear that the Liberty players and fans wanted him off the court.
With Miller running onto Liberty’s Jaxson Lake (#14) towards the end of the game, a brief scuffle had emerged causing a technical foul. Miller was able to shoot two free’s all alone, no distractions… except for Liberty’s student section trying anything to take Miller’s focus off his game.
“I mean I play football too so it’s even louder there. It didn’t mean too much to me. I just brushed it off, tried to knock it down and missed one,” Miller said.
Immediately following Miller was Ross at the rim for two more free throws with a much quieter, but still noticeable audience.
Ross added that “their crowd was a loud crowd; they all thought we were trash. We kept our poise really well and didn’t let them get in our heads. We kept playing our game and that’s how we came out with the W.”
Ross and Miller both were the high scoring players with 13 and 12 points respectively. Ogoli also scored 10 points for the team with two three-pointers.
With the Wolves’ win of 56-45, they made 18 of 48 shots from the court (five of which were threes) and 15 of 24 attempted free throws.
Since the pre-league games finished with this match, the boys started their League games on the 14th against last year’s rank one team, Lake Oswego.
“We have the toughest league in the state in my opinion,” Ross said. “LO, Tigard, West Linn, Oregon City; they’re all great teams. I think that’s the best competition we have.”