5A State Championship: Five Takeaways

High School
Oregon

Posted On: 03/10/18 5:13 PM

It’s been a terrific 5A boys basketball season. There was a dominant Midwestern League, a Silverton team that, at points, looked to be a top-five team in the state, regardless of classification, a Wilsonville team that dang near finished the season undefeated against 5A competition, plus an Intermountain Conference with three good teams that were hard to figure out.

It culminated at Gill Coliseum on Friday night as Thurston, playing in their first state championship game, beat two-time defending champs Wilsonville, 54-36. Here is what stood out:

Thurston’s confidence

I guess no one told Thurston they were supposed to be intimidated by the two-time defending champion Wildcats, who ended the Colts’ season last year in the first round. Instead, the Colts came out guns blazing. Thurston’s star guard Isaac Lange scored a layup in the first quarter and then hit tough jump shot, clapping in a Wilsonville defender’s face. At no point did Thurston let the moment get the best of them. “They’re a really confident group who knows what they’re really good at and plays to that strength,” Thurston coach Blaine Liberatore said.

Thurston’s approach

While more and more teams rely on the three-point shot, the Colts attempted just one three-point jumper. One. Technically, they finished 1-of-2, as Lange heaved a deep three at the end of a quarter, but the only other trey came from Jesse Connor, who knocked it down. Thurston, especially led by Lange, Connor and Sterling Minor got out in transition for buckets. Minor finished 6-of-8 from the field

A couple of dunks

The first field goal of the game came on an eye-popping alley-oop from Wilsonville’s Caleb Larsen to bouncy Wilsonville sophomore Dakota Reber. Gill Coliseum exploded as Jack Roche twirled down the floor, shouting into the din. Reber also dunked in the third quarter. This year’s Wilsonville team relied upon ball movement and approach more than talent, has a very gifted player in Reber. An athletic 6-foot-5 post, Reber was exceptional in the semifinal game and was Wilsonville’s best player in the title game. He’s one to keep a close eye on, if not just to watch some jaw-dropping alley-oops.

Thurston’s interior presence

Mason Miller, a first-team all-league player, led the Colts in scoring and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He twice scored off the dribble in the first half, added a third quarter tip-in and finished 7 of 8 from the field. He added one block and although the Colts blocked just four shots, it felt like many more as MillerMinor, and lanky forward Ethan Powell challenged nearly every Wilsonville shot in the paint.

Not Wilsonville’s best

After the game, Wilsonville coach Chris Roche said: “It’s a tough night to not play your best, but I think some of that has to do with how good Thurston was tonight.” The Colts were terrific, but the Wildcats—who did not face tough competition in sweeping NWOC play—were not at their sharpest. Their tremendous backcourt was off. Jack Roche, a terrific shooter and passer, took a few ill-advised shots, missing them short (2 of 9 on FGs). The incredibly quick Caleb Larsen was a little bit off on most of his shots, narrowly missing layups and jumpers. He finished 2 of 13. Roche will be back next year to lead what is guaranteed to be an exceptional Wilsonville team. Larsen will graduate and although he is undersized and not an amazing shooter, some D-III team will be fortunate to have his quickness.

(For more prep hoops coverage, follow @HayesGardner on Twitter.)