Hopefully, last Wednesday's game against Wilson was not a preview of things to come for the Lakeridge boys basketball team. Otherwise, all of the team's fans will need to stock up on blood-pressure medication to get through the season.
At times, the Pacers looked like a legitimate top-10 team as they scored with ease against an athletic Wilson team. Maybe it was too easy as the Pacers jumped to a 16-point third-quarter lead and threatened to blow the Trojans out of the gym.
After that, Lakeridge temporarily transformed itself into a completely different team that was plagued by a series of ill-advised shots, turnovers and questionable fouls. Amazingly, while nearly imploding, the Pacers never lost the lead despite an impressive comeback by the Trojans.
In fact, when the game became a virtual toss-up down the stretch, the Pacers once again became the team they were early in the contest. This time, though, defense was the key as Wilson committed three crucial turnovers down the stretch and Lakeridge held on for a wild but hard-fought 64-60 victory in the season-opener for both teams.
'In a game like this, you would hope you could put them away,' Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss said after the contest. 'If we had shot a little better from the foul line, it wouldn't have been quite so tight.'
Foul shooting was actually a big thorn in the Pacers' side as they hit just 10 of 22 attempts. Plus, it didn't help much that the officials missed many of the hard contact fouls that were committed during the game. Certainly, the refs missed calls both ways but it seemed the Pacers got the worst end of the deal.
The worst of it came in the third quarter when Wilson cut a 45-29 Lakeridge lead to 47-45. During that span, the Trojans attempted 10 free throws and made eight of them.
'Some of those fouls, I think they might have been just a little too aggressive,' Nuss said of his team's play. 'But it's hard to pick up that many fouls in one quarter. But that's the way they were calling them, so we just have to learn to adjust and go with the flow.'
Whether or not those fouls were legitimate is one thing, but either way the end result left Lakeridge's Graham Moredock, a 6-foot-9 senior post, and Joe Cramer, one of the team's top outside shooters, in foul trouble. They were on the bench when Wilson mounted its comeback.
When they returned, everything seemed to go back to normal.
On his first shot since returning to the game, Moredock hit a short jump hook to give Lakeridge a 49-45 lead early in the fourth period. A short time later, Brian Luevano hit a three-pointer by make the lead 52-47 and Cramer followed a minute later with three to make it 55-47.
The Trojans still had one more run in them, though. After Cramer's basket, Wilson came back with a 9-2 run that cut the deficit to 57-56 with four minutes left.
That would be as close as Wilson would get, however. The Trojans actually had chances to tie or take the lead on multiple possessions down the stretch, but instead, they committed three straight turnovers before missing their final two shots.
Lakeridge then iced the game when Luevano and Kenan Ozgur combined to hit seven foul shots in the final minutes.
Luevano wound up with a game-high 20 points while Moredock had 12 and Cramer and Ozgur added 11 each.
'I thought Brian (Luevano) had a nice game,' Nuss said. 'He did a good job shooting the ball. And I thought he had a nice floor game at the end, where he pulled it back and tried to run the clock.'
The Wilson game also showed that Moredock will be an important piece of the puzzle this season.
'It's nice to have him back,' Nuss said of his center, who attended school last year in the Seattle area.
'Graham gives us that stuff inside like Kenneth (Rice) did last year,' Nuss said. 'He is our inside presence.'