The No. 1 Timberwolves pull away late to dispatch No. 2 Summit 66-49
It took three months for Tualatin to turn heartbreak into jubilation.
The top-seeded Timberwolves, who fell one game short of winning the school’s first football title in the fall, came through the school’s first basketball title Saturday by beating No. 2 Summit 66-49 in the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament at the Chiles Center.
With a roster that includes eight football players, four of them starters, Tualatin (25-2) found a measure of redemption. The Timberwolves took a 20-9 lead and held on the rest of the way to hand the Storm (27-1) their first defeat of the season.
Senior guard Noah Ogoli set the tone early and led the way with 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“After losing that, it stung a lot, and it felt like we all took that into account and realized we had more to do,” Ogoli said. “I just feel like we used that energy to fuel us, and get this championship, because we all knew we had it in us.”
Senior guard Malik Ross, the star running back on the football team, said the title helped ease the sting of the championship-game loss to Central Catholic.
“Oh my goodness, it’s amazing,” Ross said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. To compare the feeling after the football championship and this one, it definitely avenges it. I’m so excited right now.”
Senior post Peter Burke, another of the football players, relished the championship.
“This is what we dream of,” Burke said. “We knew senior year we could be something special. This is what we wanted to do, and we made it happen.”
To hold the blue trophy, Tualatin overcame a 29-day, midseason layoff due to COVID issues. To make up for it, the Timberwolves had to play nine games in a 15-day span.
“We overcame a lot of adversity,” Ogoli said. “No one quit. We all stayed together during the time off and tried to do the best we could individually. We came back and we were all connected and ready to go.”
The Timberwolves lost only to Link Academy (Mo.) and Lake Oswego. After losing to the Lakers, they finished the season with 16 consecutive wins.
Tualatin coach Todd Jukkala marveled at how his players responded.
“I don’t have words for it,” Jukkala said. “The challenges that were thrown in front of us, no team had to go through what we went through. And for them to come out the end of it like this, just an amazing group of young men.”
Ogoli scored 10 points in the first quarter as Tualatin took a 17-9 lead. Burke made a three-pointer to make it 20-9, the largest lead until the final two minutes of the game.
The Storm, playing in their first final, were coming off a semifinal win over Mountainside in which they made 12 of 24 three-point attempts. But they couldn’t find a flow on offense against the strong, athletic Timberwolves, shooting 35.3 percent, including 5 of 18 on three-pointers.
“I think we’re a more skilled team basketball-wise, but a lot of those are football kids, and they’ve been in a state championship before,” Summit senior wing Caden Harris said. “You could just tell. They’ve been there, what was it, a few months ago.
“They stay composed the whole game. They don’t get rattled by anything. A lot of credit to them. They played really well, especially in those big moments.”
Summit got to within three points in the third quarter and was still within 52-46 with three minutes left, but Tualatin closed out the game with a 14-3 run.
“We just kept it right at that six- to eight-point range, but we just couldn’t quite get over the hump with them,” Summit coach Jon Frazier said. “Obviously for us, throughout the year we’ve always had a run in us, and we’ve been able to string together three or four big shots, big threes. But credit to them defensively. They didn’t allow us to go on our run.”
Ross said the goal was to make every shot difficult for the Storm.
“Wearing them down over the course of a game,” Ross said. “You make things physical for somebody, it’s going to wear them down. And we knew they weren’t a deep team.”
Said Ogoli: “We knew they were really good shooters, so I feel like we guarded the three-point line, and made them do what they weren’t comfortable doing.”
Ogoli scored 10 points in the first quarter and was clutch late, too, scoring nine points in a four-minute span to help turn back the Storm.
“It was my last game, so I knew I had to go crazy, and lead my team to a state championship,” Ogoli said.
Besides Ogoli, the Timberwolves got contributions up and down their lineup. Ross produced 12 points and four rebounds. Junior guard Josiah Lake had 12 points and 15 rebounds. And Burke made two three-pointers and added 12 points and five rebounds.
“It’s just getting us wins, that’s all we care about,” Ross said. “Different nights, it could be any guy. I’m so thankful for this team. It’s just impossible for a team to guard three to five elite players, and it showed tonight.”
It was a familiar pattern for Tualatin.
“One guy kind of steps up and then we get all the support that we need from the rest of the team,” Jukkala said. “That’s what makes us tough. We have so much talent. Easily the most talented group I’ve ever coached. That’s a very nice luxury to have.”
The title marks a career achievement for Jukkala. In 13 seasons as Tualatin’s girls coach (1999-2012), he won 250 games and led the team to the semifinals twice. He is 65-28 in four seasons as the boys coach.
“You get close, and you don’t quite get it, and it’s really disappointing,” Jukkala said. “This doesn’t happen all the time, so when you get these opportunities, it’s really special. I really enjoyed coaching those girls teams, they were really good, but it’s nice to get one.”
It also squares him with wife Jacy, who coached Glencoe to a 5A softball title in 2010.
“She yelled at me from the stands, ‘I don’t have one up on you anymore,’” Jukkala said.
Harris led Summit with 15 points and 12 rebounds and senior point guard Julian Mora added 10 points and four assists. But the Storm, who entered averaging 70.8 points per game, were not on their game.
“We were just doing a little too much,” Harris said. “We were going too fast in the first half. … If we would’ve gotten rid of the nerves in that first half, I think it would’ve been a totally different game. I think we thought we could really beat them.”
It was a disappointing finish for Summit, which was bidding to become the first team from Central Oregon to win a title since Redmond in 2003.
The Storm moved up from 5A in 2018 and made steady improvement, going 62-27 in four seasons. Summit will move back to 5A next season.
“We can’t really hang our heads on that loss right now,” Harris said. “I really think the best for us is to enjoy this moment. No one really thought we’d come out here and do what we’re doing right now.”