FORT MYERS, Fla. — West Linn (Ore.) is shooting for its fourth consecutive state title. Yet, with 10 minutes to go in their game Friday at the City of Palms Classic, the Lions had scored 15 points. They bounced back a bit but still fell 50-39 to No. 24 Norland (Miami), a four-time reigning state champion.
“I know they’re a good team,” West Linn coach Erik Viukola said. “And looking at their scores before this, they obviously play really good defense and they’re long and everything like that, but we had a bunch of wide-open looks. I felt like we had horse shots in the first half, we had a bunch of open looks, but couldn’t hit them.”
Two years ago in the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro (Ore.) the Lions beat Whitney Young (Chicago) and Jahlil Okafor. Last year in the Les Schwab, West Linn defeated Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) and gave Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) a tough game. But those teams had to cross several time zones to play and on Friday, the well-traveled shoe was on the other foot for the Lions (1-1), who are playing in the City of Palms for the first time.
“We’ve played great teams, but we came out today and laid a big-old egg,” Viukola said. “We looked scared. I blame myself. I didn’t have us ready. I don’t even know if (Norland coach Lawton Williams III) thinks they played well. It was not a good game. It was ugly.”
Williams was happy with his team’s effort until the fourth quarter, when West Linn point guard Payton Pritchard, an Oregon signee, scored 10 of his team-high 20 points. Pritchard was named to the Team USA roster for the April Nike Hoops Summit earlier this week. He is ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Oregon and the No. 9 point guard in the Class of 2016 by the 247Sports Composite.
Dewan Huell, a Miami signee, led Norland (10-0) with 24 points. Huell is ranked No. 2 in the state, the No. 7 power forward and the No. 23 player overall by 247Sports.
Norland takes on No. 2-seeded Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) in the quarterfinals Saturday.
“We wanted to stop (Pritchard) and control the tempo, which we did until the fourth quarter,” Williams said. “Then we just let him take off and I don’t know, forget how to guard, I guess. We only give 44 points a game. We guard pretty well. The scoring part, we struggle with sometimes.”