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Wilsonville makes Oregon boys basketball history with 8th straight final appearance; it's Wildcats vs. Summit (again) for 5A title

Wilsonville fights off rival Putnam, Summit tops Woodburn in OSAA 5A boys basketball semifinals

McMINNVILLE — There’s a feeling of inevitability when it comes to Wilsonville at the 5A boys basketball state tournament. 

From teams led by Zach Reichle to Jack Roche to Kallen Gutridge, all the Wildcats do is win when the calendar flips to March. In fact, the only thing that’s succeeded in halting Wilsonville’s decade-long state tournament assault was a global pandemic.

The astonishing run continued Friday as the second-seeded Wildcats held off a spirited charge from No. 6 Putnam, 57-51, in a semifinal at Ted Wilson Gymnasium. Wilsonville, the three-time defending state champion, will take on top-seeded Summit in a rematch of last year’s final at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

It’s the eighth consecutive title game appearance for Wilsonville, the most in state history for all classifications. 

“I am so proud of the kids because you can trip and fall in so many places,” said head coach Chris Roche, who has led the Wildcats to six state titles (2005, 2016-17, 2019, 2022-23). “This tournament is hard. Getting here is hard. Injuries happen. … I’m just amazed at how the tradition that these kids care about so much, they’ve been able to keep it going.”

Wilsonville’s championship game streak began in 2015 with a heartbreaking loss to Silverton. The Wildcats took down Liberty in the following year’s final and haven’t looked back under coach Roche’s leadership. 

“Coach is so deserving,” senior point guard Kallen Gutridge said. “The amount of time he puts into our program, into the players, the bond we have with him, I’m just super excited to get to another state championship. But the job’s not done.”

Added coach Roche: “We’re not defining everything by making the championship game. That’s not who we want to be, but in the moment we’re trying to get there. … For us to do it eight times in a row is just a tribute to these kids and how special they are. So, I am super proud. And it’s not just this group; it’s a bunch of them. It’s a decade’s worth of these kids, and I just love them to death.” 

a Wilsonville Redmond 5A Oregon boys basketball quarterfinal 2024 Leon Neuschwander 65

The Wildcats (25-3) trailed 31-23 at halftime as they looked to defeat Northwest Oregon Conference rival Putnam (22-5) for the third time this season. Facing an aggressive, trap-happy defense, Wilsonville leaned on its size and scored 14 of its 18 third-quarter points in the paint to forge a 41-40 lead heading to the fourth.

With the score knotted at 49-49, Gutridge buried an NBA 3-pointer to put the Wildcats in front for good at 52-49. He then connected with Emmitt Fee on a give-and-go layup for a five-point lead with 56.1 seconds remaining.

“I just have confidence to make that shot, especially if they’re going to give me space,” Gutridge said of the go-ahead triple. “I just took that shot, was confident about it, and it went in.”

Kyle Counts led Wilsonville with 18 points and four assists while Gutridge filled up the box score with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Gutridge also held down Putnam star Jaiden Pickett, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six steals.

“He’s incredible,” coach Roche said of Gutridge. “Another thing that he does is he’s a tremendous defender. He guarded Jaiden Pickett, who is a great player, one of the best players in the state. … Kallen was able to neutralize him while handling the ball, while getting us into an offense, while scoring some.” 

Tyler Adams had 14 points to lead a Putnam team that reached the semifinals for the first time since 1990.

“It was a great game. We just didn’t do some of the things we had success with in the first half,” Kingsmen head coach Ali Mihub said. “We just didn’t keep attacking.”

Counts had the first six points for Wilsonville before Jacob Boss drained an elbow 3-pointer for a 9-5 lead. Triples from Boss and Gutridge made it 15-11 after one quarter.

The Kingsmen opened the second with a 12-2 scoring run, going up 23-17 on a corner 3-pointer by Chase McDonald. The advantage swelled to double figures at 31-21 during a dominant quarter for Putnam, which led by eight at the break.

Wilsonville shot 56 percent (9 of 16) from the field in the first half but turned it over 12 times against the Kingsmen’s pressure defense.

“They just sped us up in the first half,” Gutridge said. “They came out guns a-blazing, like we expected, and we didn’t play our best ball in the first half. We finally caught our rhythm in the second half … took control of ourselves on offense and made great plays down the stretch.”

The comeback win sets up an unusual title game rematch where Wilsonville — the multi-year reigning champion — is widely considered the underdog. Summit was also seen as the favorite last season, but the Wildcats found a way to grind out a 43-36 win.

“I’m excited to play those guys again,” Counts said. “Summit is a great group, and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.” 

Added coach Roche: “They’re amazing. I think they’re potentially the best team in the state at any level. I don’t know who’s better than them. They’re really good and Pearson Carmichael is an amazing talent. We’re happy to be there. We’ll just show up and see if we can keep it close.” 

In the first semifinal, Summit used a lengthy 25-5 run that spanned portions of the second, third and fourth quarters to put away No. 4 Woodburn, 48-33.

The Storm trailed 19-16 late in the second quarter but closed the half with eight consecutive points to seize the lead. Summit kept the pressure on after halftime and stormed back into the title game.

Carmichael, a Boise State signee, paced Summit (23-4) with 30 points, 13 rebounds and two steals.

Dylon Renteria had a game-high nine points for Woodburn (22-5), which had won 19 in a row entering the semis. Mid-Willamette Conference player of the year Cruz Veliz was held to seven points, six rebounds and four assists on 1-of-11 shooting.

“We knew we could be great defensively,” Storm head coach Jon Frazier said. “We’ve seen it at times for long stretches, but tonight, for me, that was the vision. Defensively, we were so darn good.

“Woodburn is an extremely explosive team. To hold a team like that to 33 points and be able to contain Cruz and hold him to seven points, I just thought defensively we were so good.”

Collin Moore and Paxon Kettering shared defensive duties on Veliz with plenty of off-ball help.

“Our collective length can make it hard for some of the opposing guards we face,” Frazier said. “The length we were able to show on Cruz maybe took his sight lines down a little bit.”

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Photo by Leon Neuschwander