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LO girls start season ranked No. 4

Basketball team's versatility may be its biggest strength

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the Lake Oswego girls basketball team's biggest strength is this season. And that, in itself, may be its biggest strength.

The Lakers, perennially a top-10 team, may boast their most versatile line-up in years and have the ability to give opponents a number of different looks and create match-up problems.

Early in the season, the Lakers have shown off those different looks and have won each of their first three games.

Even though the team is loaded with experience, it is a year of adjustment for Lake Oswego. New coach Jason Fawcett is implementing his system and the team needs to learn on the fly.

'We're trying to do all new stuff. The girls are learning new concepts and terminology but they're doing a great job,' Fawcett said.

So far, the Lakers have done an admirable job. Lake Oswego will be led by the play of its talented front court this season. Emily Hatch and Margaret Johnson return for their senior seasons and they are joined this year by 6-foot-3 transfer Shannon Reader from Century.

Those three will split time and spell each other during games. Depth in the front court is something that has plagued the Lakers in the past as teams have keyed on getting Hatch and Johnson into foul trouble.

That will be a much more difficult task this season.

'We expect huge things from all three of those girls. The front court is really strong. We can keep those girls fresh and when one of them goes to the bench there won't be much of a drop-off at all,' Fawcett said.

But Lake Oswego's posts are not only intimidating on the boards and in the paint, they are also extremely athletic and can fly up and down the court with the speed of guards.

'We're very versatile this year and capable of playing multiple styles,' Fawcett said.

The Lakers will look to get out and run whenever possible this year and thrive in the transition game.

Sarah Griffin is the team's starting point guard and she shares the back court with returning starter Jill Shoquist. Shoquist is still getting her basketball legs underneath her after a very successful soccer season.

Avery Lee has also improved immensely in the off-season and has seen a significant amount of playing time early in the year.

'Avery had the best fall for us and she's been doing great at the two-spot,' Fawcett said.

Fawcett hopes that his guards will give opponents trouble later in the year.

'They're almost unselfish to a fault right now. They're patient and recognize the talent on the floor,' Fawcett said.

Other key contributors during the season will be Ali Lomax, another returning player who is a defensive specialist for the Lakers and is one of the team's most energetic players.

Becky Luetjen will also contribute as a wing and Fawcett believes that she could start on the majority of teams in the state.

The Lakers will live and die with their defense this season and have been spending lots of time in practice defending half-court sets.

'Our defense is our hallmark this year,' Fawcett said.

Lake Oswego has shown significant improvement already in the young season. The Lakers opened up with a somewhat bizarre game against Lincoln.

Lake Oswego managed to claw its way to a 31-28 victory in a game where neither team could hit a shot and turnovers were rampant.

'The girls were so jazzed and excited all their shots were long and we had a ton of unforced errors. But I think how they handled that frustration was tremendous,' Fawcett said.

Since then the team has rallied on offense and has lived up to its billing as the fourth-ranked team in the state.

The Lakers rolled Crater, a playoff team last year, 59-29. In that game, Shoquist suffered a nasty injury.

After beating her defender off the dribble, she drove to the paint and made a pass but an opponent's elbow caught her just above the eye, opening up a large cut.

Shoquist received stitches and actually returned to the court against Willamette but it was a scary moment for the team.

'Injuries like that bleed forever, but she's going to be fine,' Fawcett said.

Against Willamette, Hatch put on a show scoring 16 points in a single quarter during the team's 62-29 victory.

'She was fun to watch. She has worked so hard developing her game for the next level and I think she's starting to see the fruits of her labor,' Fawcett said.

Lake Oswego will see a number of the top teams in the state before it gets into league competition after the Christmas break.

The team will have its home opener on Dec. 15 against the always-competitive Jesuit Crusaders and then they will host the annual Shootout Tournament.

The Lakers will open the tournament against sixth-ranked Tualatin. Those two teams met in the championship of the tournament last year.

Lake Oswego will need the preparation to be ready for what appears to be a very competitive Three Rivers League. Second-ranked Oregon City is the odds-on favorite to capture another league title while West Linn is ranked in the top-10 as well, just four spots behind the Lakers. Clackamas and Lakeridge are also expected to contend for playoff berths.

'Our mindset is that we'll take on any team, anywhere. We just want to focus on what we can control,' Fawcett said.