Liberty's Tyler Bradford scored 21 points against Sherwood, including the go-ahead free throw late. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Liberty's Tyler Bradford scored 21 points against Sherwood, including the go-ahead free throw late. (Photo by Jon Olson)

Liberty took a major step toward its first boys basketball league title Wednesday with a 61-60 home win over five-time reigning Pacific Conference champion Sherwood.

Senior forward Tyler Bradford broke a tie by splitting two free throws with five seconds left and the Falcons (16-4, 8-0) held on defense to beat the Bowmen (13-7, 6-2). Liberty, which won at Sherwood 70-65 in the first round of conference play, holds a two-game lead over the Bowmen with four games left in the regular season.

Bradford scored 21 points to lead the Falcons, who also got 15 points from their sixth man, junior wing Tavian Womack, and 12 points from senior wing Elijah Streeter.

“With how we beat Sherwood last time, coming from behind, it felt really good to be in the lead the whole time, just kind of in control,” Liberty coach Mike Gregory said. “We knew that to win league we would have to beat Sherwood. Beating them twice just secures it even more for us.”

In the first meeting, Liberty rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to win. On Wednesday, the Falcons led 47-40 after three quarters and held on after the Bowmen pulled into a tie inside the final minute.

With the score 60-60, Liberty called timeout with 30 seconds left to set up a play. The 6-foot-3 Bradford caught the ball inside off a pick-and-roll with senior guard Donovan Crowder and was fouled, setting up his go-ahead free throw.

Without a timeout, Sherwood rushed up the court, but Bradford tipped away a pass inside and Streeter spiked the ball out to half-court as the buzzer sounded.

The Falcons can clinch the outright league title by winning three of their last four games. They play Century (11-9, 4-3), Newberg (8-12, 3-4), McMinnville (8-11, 2-5) and Forest Grove (9-11, 3-5).

Liberty brought back four starters from a team that finished as the Pacific runner-up to Sherwood last season in Bradford, Crowder (5-11)., junior wing James Kefgren (6-3) and senior guard Benjamin Chobu (5-10).

“We felt like we had the personnel to do it last year,” Gregory said of the conference title. “Having that in our sights last year kind of propelled guys to actually think it's possible this year.”

The Falcons are getting big contributions this season from Bradford (16.9 points, 7.0 rebounds), Kefgren (16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals) and Crowder (11.4 points, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals).

Gregory said they have more weapons this season, as evidenced by Wednesday, when Kefgren was held to two points but Womack and Streeter helped pick up the slack.

“Those kind of efforts, it's hard to scout for those,” Gregory said. “We have multiple guys that can score now. It makes us very difficult to game plan for.”

Liberty had moved up to No. 8 in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll before dropping out this week after a 79-74 nonleague loss at West Salem on Jan. 30. The Falcons' also have lost to Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 101-62, 5A No. 1 Summit 96-75 and 6A No. 3 Southridge 71-62.

Liberty moved up to 6A after finishing as the 5A runner-up to Wilsonville in 2016. The Falcons have made the 6A playoffs three times since that move, losing first-round games to Jefferson 80-44 in 2018, Summit 78-46 in 2022 and Central Catholic 81-56 last year.

At No. 8 in the OSAA power rankings, Liberty is hopeful that a better draw will lead to postseason success. With a top-eight seed, the Falcons could reach the 6A tournament with two home wins.

“That's obviously in our sights,” Gregory said.

Henley rebuffs Hidden Valley

No. 10 Henley took sole possession of first place in the 4A Skyline Conference on Tuesday with a 59-49 win over visiting Hidden Valley.

The Hornets (12-7, 4-1) avenged a 54-45 loss at Hidden Valley on Jan. 16. They hold a one-game lead over the Mustangs (11-9, 3-2) and Phoenix (14-5, 3-2) with three games left, including a Jan. 20 home date against Phoenix in the regular-season finale.

Markus McCreadie, a 6-7 senior, had 15 points and 11 rebounds and 6-3 senior Owen Harper added 13 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday's win. Henley led 44-27 after three quarters before Hidden Valley cut the gap to 50-44 with 2:31 left, but the Hornets scored the next six points – getting two baskets from senior Chris Janney – to repel the threat.

Senior Ivan Isley and junior Joshua Iwamizu scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Mustangs.

Lewis & Clark battle

The Lewis & Clark League, arguably the best 3A league in the state, appears headed for a three-way tie at the top.

No. 2 De La Salle North Catholic (16-6, 10-2) has completed its regular season and holds a half-game lead over No. 3 Westside Christian (17-5, 9-2) and No. 4 Valley Catholic (17-5, 9-2).

Westside Christian and Valley Catholic complete their league schedules Thursday, with the Eagles playing host to Horizon Christian (6-15, 1-10) and the Valiants visiting Portland Adventist (14-9, 4-7).

If both teams win and force a three-way tie for first place, Westside Christian would be the top seed in the league playoffs, due to OSAA ranking. Valley Catholic and De La Salle North Catholic would play Tuesday for the right to face Westside Christian in the district final Feb. 17.

Westside Christian foiled Valley Catholic's bid for an outright league title by going on the road to defeat the Valiants 57-43 on Tuesday. Senior guard Will Ficker scored 20 points in the win for the Eagles, who led 11-0 after one quarter and went on to hold Valley Catholic to its second-lowest point total of the season.

“It was a terrific defensive effort across the board,” Westside Christian coach David Henry said.

Notes: McNary ended West Salem's 14-game winning streak Tuesday, topping the No. 10 Titans 53-46 at home. Junior guard Steven Adams scored 21 points for the Celtics (12-8, 4-4), who avenged a 67-64 loss to West Salem (17-3, 7-1) on Jan. 19. “Huge win. We’ve been wanting this the whole season,” Adams said. “We knew they got one that we should’ve won and we wanted blood.” … Undefeated Baker (21-0), No 1 in the OSAAtoday 4A coaches poll, gets two big nonleague tests this week. The Bulldogs play 3A No. 1 Cascade Christian (17-5) on Friday at Summit and go to 4A No. 2 Cascade (14-3) on Saturday. …

No. 1 Crane (20-1) faces No. 2 Nixyaawii (15-3) in a 1A nonleague showdown Thursday at Eastern Oregon University. Crane beat Nixyaawii 70-60 on Dec. 9 in the 1A Preview at Pilot Rock. … No. 5 Seaside (15-3, 9-0) put a stranglehold on the 4A Cowapa League by going overtime for a 65-60 home win over No. 8 Astoria (16-4, 6-3) on Saturday in the Clatsop Clash rivalry game. … Lincoln's Tanner Overby, a 6-1 senior post, scored 37 points to lead the Cardinals to a 70-61 win at Grant on Tuesday. Overby, the 6A scoring leader at 29.3, has had five games of at least 37 points this season.

-- Jeremy McDonald contributed to this report