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Lakers win hoops opener but look out of sync

If basketball teams were graded on style points, the Lake Oswego boys basketball team would have a negative total after its season-opening 60-48 victory over Lincoln last Friday.

After a good first quarter and a decent second quarter, the defending state champion Lakers could not have looked much worse in the final half.

Just bringing the ball up the court proved to be a challenge against Lincoln's pesky full-court press. Once they got into their offense, the Lakers looked disorganized and shot attempts were often forced or ill-advised.

Fortunately, Lake Oswego still has All-American Kevin Love roaming the post area. Without him, the Lakers would have been in big trouble. He finished the game with 38 points, 28 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots.

For one very long stretch in the second half - approximately 14 consecutive minutes - Love was the only player who scored points for the Lakers. Amazingly, that was still enough for Lake Oswego to maintain at least a six-point lead throughout the second half.

Love's numbers would have been even more impressive if not for a number of fouls that Lincoln appeared to commit but the officials apparently missed. Love's teammates also had to endure several uncalled fouls that led to turnovers and points for Lincoln.

In that regard, it was a frustrating night to say the least, but Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff refused to let his team use the officials as an excuse for their sub-par play.

'The officials allowed a lot of play and it's going to happen,' Shoff said. 'It's a lesson our kids have to take from this game, and realize that this is the way it's going to be for us (with the officials letting things go) … They can't be whimpering, expecting the refs to bail them out.'

For one quarter, at least, the Lakers looked like the team that won last season's state championship. In that stanza, the Lakers pretty much did what they wanted to, and Love was his typical dominating self. Lake Oswego led 24-14 after that period.

Things slowed down considerably in the second quarter, though, as Lincoln stepped up its defensive pressure. Both teams managed just 11 points in that period.

Then, in the second half, the lightning-quick Cardinals took their defensive pressure to a new level. They did such a good job of trapping the Lakers at half-court that Shoff had to change his alignment just get the ball across the mid-court line.

'I'd like to have Kevin be the person in the middle catching the ball instead of being the person that has to throw it. But he was the only one that was finding people,' the coach said.

When the Lakers did get the ball into scoring position they seemed to be their own worst enemy as they missed a surprising number of lay-ups and close-range shots.

'We have to attack the basket and look like we have confidence,' Shoff said afterward. 'We played into their hands and that's exactly what you don't want to do when a team is pressing you all over the place.'

While it was the Kevin Love show for a large portion of the game, he wasn't the only Laker who showed up. Sophomore forward Max Jacobsen had a good game, especially in the first half, and finished with nine points - the second-highest total on the team. Elliot Babcock-Krenk, who had seven points, also played well, especially on defense. And reserve post Tommy Allen had an impressive full-court drive that led to a three-point play.

Shoff was hoping he would see plays like that throughout the game. But he also realizes that it's early in the season and the team will need some time to get its game in sync.

'Last year was the same way. We beat Canby early but played ugly,' the coach said. 'We'll get better.'

Lincoln also deserves a lot of credit for taking Lake Oswego out of its comfort zone. The Cardinals' defensive pressure reminded some people of the way Jesuit caused Lake Oswego to melt down during the stretch run of the state championship game two seasons ago.

It's interesting to note that Lincoln's first-year coach, David Adelman, was an assistant on that Jesuit team. And now Adelman has Lincoln playing a similar style.

'Lincoln is a good team,' Shoff said. 'When they went down and beat South Eugene in their place by 15, I think that woke up some people … This team is going to win a lot of games.'

Maybe the Lakers should feel fortunate that they didn't become one of Lincoln's victims.