Best of 5A’s semifinals

High School
Oregon

Posted On: 03/9/18 4:06 PM

Three Midwestern League teams and Wilsonville advanced to the 5A state semifinals and while there were no blowouts, both Wilsonville and Thurston won convincgly. Here were the results and what stood out:

No. 4 Wilsonville 58, No. 8 Churchill 43

No. 3 Thurston 71, No. 2 Crater 57

(Pictured: Dakota Reber and Jonathon Nchekwube tip off for Wilsonville and Churchill)

The biggest performance

Dakota Reber, a 6-foot-5 athletic post, had a massive game for Wilsonville. He shot 8-of-10 from the field for 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Wildcats are a balanced team, but Reber, a sophomore, has the most upside and college potential of anyone. He showed that with a phenomenal game against Churchill. Said Wilsonville coach Chris Roche: “He’s had a lot of good games this year, but that was his best one.”

He caught several feeds underneath for easy buckets, played good defense, had an energizing third-quarter dunk and even hit both of his three-point attempts. “He’s still a work in progress, but he’s got gobs of talent and it’s fun to see him play that well in this type of situation,” Roche said. “Ten defensive rebounds against a team like Churchill? That’s not a sophomore, that’s a stud.”

Great big men matchups

Both games pitted terrific big men against each other. In the opener, it was Dakota Reber versus Churchill’s 6-foot-7  junior Jonathon Nchekwube, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. He looked raw at some points, but did a terrific job on the boards and defensively.

In the second game, it was Crater senior Kiefer Edwards and Thurston’s Mason Miller who battled inside. Edwards finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, but shot just 6 of 19 from the field (11 of 12 from the stripe). Miller, a 6-foot-7 junior, played well, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three assists.

Balanced attacks

Both winners did so in fairly balanced fashion. Wilsonville always is, but Thurston was surprisingly balanced as four players scored at least 13 points. Mason Miller and Isaac Lange are their typical stars, but it was Jesse Connor and Sterling Minor who led the scoring with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Connor shot 8 of 10 from the stripe and added four assists and Minor was 7 of 12 from the field, hitting some difficult shots in the process. Said Lange: “We have a whole bunch of threats, a whole bunch.”

Cold shooting from Crater

The Comets, one of the favorites to take home the 5A title after losing just one game during the season, fell victim to cold shooting. Mason Vranes shot two of three from deep, but they hit just 3 of 17 three-pointers. At four occasions during the fourth quarter, Crater was down nine points and it seemed like if they could get a three-pointer to fall, they might have a chance. But that moment never came.

Churchill gets hot… then cold

Both losing teams relied on the three ball quite a bit. Churchill shot 6 of 22 from deep (27%) and most of those makes came in a couple of flurries. Cole Wilkenson started the game with two made treys on Churchill’s first two possessions and then hit a third in the second quarter, but couldn’t get many of his other attempts to fall. He led the Lancers with 15 points. Lucas Schwin scored all six of his points on back-to-back treys in the third quarter to give Churchill some momentum, but it wasn’t enough.

Moment of concern

Thurston shot out to an early lead and were up 13-5 in the first quarter when Isaac Lange got a steal, but then missed a fast break layup. He fell to the ground and had to subbed out, spending several minutes in the locker room, but returned early in the second quarter, when Thurston led 17-13. He appeared unbothered and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Afterwards, he said he felt totally fine.

The prediction?

No. 4 Wilsonville or No. 3 Thurston. This is tough. Thurston tied for third in the Midwestern League, the toughest conference in 5A, while Wilsonville strolled through the NWOC untouched. The Wildcats have not lost since January 1.

Plus, they programs have different recent histories. Wilsonville is now in their fourth straight 5A title and have two players (Caleb Larsen and Zac Rossetti) who have been on the varsity for all four. Thurston is in their first final in school history, but don’t seem to mind (“They’re really confident. They don’t let a lot bother them and they kind of do what they do,” said Thurston coach Blaine Liberatore).

I’ll give Wilsonville the edge. With a great backcourt (Larsen is lightning quick and Jack Roche finished with 12 points and five assists in the semis), plus some key cogs (Rossetti had eight boards in the semis), they’re a well-oiled machine. Look for them to take home their third straight 5A title in a super tight game.

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