Young but talented Lions want to be able to say again “We’re Garden-bound”

One season after a sixth place finish in the state tournament, a young, revamped West Linn Lions basketball team looks to pursue a Three Rivers League title and a repeat appearance at the Rose Garden, where the final eight teams alive in the playoffs battle for the State Championship.

Coach Eric Viuhkola now enters his fourth season at the helm of the Lions after a 14-16 season last year.

“I like our overall talent level and I like that they play well together,” Viuhkola said. “That means they do a great job of sharing the ball and making plays for their teammates. “Our goal is to win the TRL and make a return to the Elite 8 tournament at the Rose Garden.”

Having a youthful team doesn’t bother Viuhkola because of their talent level and because they are getting great experience which will be valuable come February and March.

The Lions roster will see some familiar faces but in different roles. The team lost a good amount of offense firepower from last season’s team, losing a combined 33.4 points per game due to the departure of graduates Mario Shonkwiler, Riley Wilkerson, Keith Baggetta and Connor Kelley. Returning starters Ryan Shearmire, sophomore and guard Mitch Cokley, senior, look to absorb some of the scoring burden.

The team returns two key players from the previous year’s roster in forward Devon Hawkins, junior, and guard Jarrod Howard, junior. Making up most of the remaining spots on the roster are JV swing players from the previous year in guard Ty Cleland, sophomore, forward C.J. Sitton, sophomore, forward Colin Davis, junior, and guard Alejandro Venecia, junior.

Also returning from a knee injury is guard Hayden Coppedge, sophomore. Forward Michael Wright, senior, will make his Varsity debut this year. Mattew Fletcher, junior, a transfer from Washington, joins the team and guard Anthony Mathis is the lone freshmen on the team this year.

“Our goal is to win a State Championship,” Shearmire said. Either way the Lions are focused on the pursuit of excellence.