Someone had to lose, and as it turned out it was Oregon Episcopal— for the fourth time.
After playing and defeating the No. 5-seeded Aardvarks three times during the regular season, Westside Christian was forced to do so one more time in order to advance to the 3A state final and they were successful, beating their Lewis & Clark League foe 62-55 in a hard-fought game on Friday, March 3, at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay.
The Eagles overcame a late injury to standout forward Jonah Jones and rallied to play their way into the state championship game.
“We were very close last year and got a lot of kids back, but in different roles and they’ve done a terrific job,” Westside Christian head coach David Henry said. “I’m just so proud of them for getting where they expected to be.”
Jones essentially carried his team on the offensive end, scoring 26 of his game-high 29 points in the first half. In all, the senior finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds, a block and two steals before leaving the game with what appeared to be a hip injury with his team trailing 48-43 with 6:09 remaining in the game.
His team didn’t blink however, instead going on a 7-1 run to take a one-point lead with Jones nursing his injury on the bench.
“They didn’t even flinch,” Henry said. “We changed some stuff a little bit, but the guards just stepped up and took care of business.”
Westside led 13-12 after one quarter and 30-29 at the half.
OES went ahead by two in the third quarter thanks to a balanced attack that saw three Aardvark players score in double digits, including Levi Edelman who finished with 18 points.
They managed to grow that lead early in the fourth quarter with buckets from Edelman, Henry Gewecke and Cyrus Forney, and appeared poised to take control of the game when Jones left with his injury. But instead Colby Ackerman and Wesley Chandler got buckets to pull Westside within one, and when Ackerman and Chandler again tickled the twine, Westside was back on top and wouldn’t look back en route to their semifinal win.
Jones wasn’t sure where he’d be health wise for their scheduled championship game against Cascade Christian, but said he’d certainly give it his best to get back on the court. And what were his thoughts on an OES team that gave them their best shot? Nothing but respect.
“It’s tough to get in that mindset when you’ve beaten them three times already, but I knew the fourth time wouldn’t be easy,” Jones said. “They’re pretty tough and all respect to them. They’re a good team.”
Cascade Christian and De La Salle North Catholic had yet to play at the conclusion of Westside’s game with OES, but Henry said they’d be ready for whoever ends up in front of them in the final.
“We’re ready to play anyone,” he said. “We’ve got our stuff ready to go. We’ll just go play and see what happens.”
The 3A State Championship game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on March 4, at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay.
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Wade Evanson covers high school sports in Washington and Columbia counties, as well as the Hillsboro Hops.
"As a lifelong participant and fan of all things sport, I appreciate the work and time necessary to excel on the various fields of play. It’s that appreciation that drives me to both acknowledge, reward, and celebrate the commitment made by boys and girls athletes from the field to the court, mat to the pool, diamond to the track, and beyond."