Following a down 2016-17 campaign, the West Albany High boys basketball team demonstrated its maturity Friday night.
When a comfortable lead began to slip away late, the Bulldogs came through with several winning plays to close out a 61-55 nonconference victory over Glencoe in the season opener for both teams.
West (1-0), which returns its top six players from a team that finished 5-19 last winter, ended the game on an 8-2 run. The Bulldogs were 6 of 7 from the foul line in the final minute while playing smothering defense.
“The tricky part is finding ways to win,” third-year West coach Derek Duman said. “So it’s really encouraging that in Game 1, we are in one of those tough, knock-down, drag-out games and our guys found a way to make the plays to win.”
Junior guard Oreon Courtney led the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points. Courtney, a second-team all-Greater Valley Conference selection a season ago, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and 17 in the second half.
Senior post Chase LaPerle added 12 points while senior guards Trent Dutcher (nine points) and Jalen Handy (eight) weren’t far behind.
Matthew Hancock paced Glencoe (0-1) with 16 points.
The long, athletic Bulldogs pressed for much of the first half and regularly mixed up their defenses. Late in the game, the 6-foot-3 Courtney wreaked havoc at the top of a 1-3-1 zone.
“We’ve got a lot of length on our team,” Courtney said. “We have a lot of speed, some cross-country guys. There’s a lot of energy out there.”
In the closing seconds of the third period, Courtney drained an elbow 3-pointer that put West up 43-39 heading to the fourth.
Four straight points from LaPerle extended it to 51-42 — West’s largest lead since early in the second quarter — with 4:35 remaining. LaPerle had 10 of his 12 after the break.
A Sam Gerber 3 capped a 7-0 Glencoe run that cut the deficit to 55-53 with 57 seconds to go. The Bulldogs stiffened defensively down the stretch, forcing back-to-back turnovers while salting it away at the line.
Courtney made all six of his fourth-quarter foul shots while Handy converted a pair.
“There are definitely some things we’ve got to get better at, but overall I’m very pleased with how we played, and especially how we finished the game,” Duman said. “I felt like we had every opportunity to let them back in it, and we did at times. But to respond and hit some big free throws and make some plays at the end, I was real proud of our team.”
The Bulldogs led 19-11 after a choppy first quarter in which 17 total fouls (nine on West) were called. The host’s lead shrunk to 28-24 by the break.
Glencoe was just 10 of 19 from the foul line in the opening half. West wasn’t any better, hitting 6 of 12.
Courtney believes there is plenty of room for improvement on the defensive end.
“I think we need to work on our defense and get a lot better in practice,” Courtney said. “We just have to work harder.”
West, which has missed the 6A state playoffs the past two seasons, has another nonleague matchup at Gresham on Wednesday before opening GVC play next Friday at McNary.
The sextet of Cassius McGinty, Nick Fleetwood, Courtney, LaPerle, Handy and Dutcher all possess starting experience. With a solid bench and a strong returning core, the Bulldogs are shooting for a top-four league finish this year.
“We expect to make a run at it for sure,” Duman said. “Our league is tough with teams like Sprague, West Salem, South Salem, McNary, McMinnville. And I think we are right in there too, and it’s going to be a grind.”