After the graduation of key players like Kenneth Rice and Daniel Brady, this was supposedly going to be a down year for the Lakeridge boys basketball team. Or maybe not.
This year's edition of the Pacers is off to an impressive 3-0 start with wins over Wilson, Sandy and Franklin.
The wins have come in every conceivable fashion. In the season opener against Wilson, the Pacers threatened to blow the Trojans away in the first half and then nearly gave the game away in the second half. That led to a 30-point win over Sandy, a game in which Lakeridge dominated every facet. Then on Tuesday, the Pacers had to scramble to beat Franklin 75-69 in overtime.
The one constant throughout it all has been some impressive individual play. Through the first three games, senior guard Brian Luevano and senior center Graham Moredock are both averaging 16 points per game, and senior guard Joe Cramer is averaging 15.3. Against Franklin, all three players equalled or topped their averages as Cramer led the way with 20 points while Moredock had 19 and Luevano added 16.
Against Sandy last Friday, it was Moredock's turn to lead the way. It was only fitting for a guy who was playing with a heavy heart following the deaths of both of his grandmothers last week.
'He's had a really tough week,' Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss said of Moredock, who had 17 points while Lakeridge registered a 73-43 non-league victory.
'He lost both of his grandmothers in a span of two days. He lost his mom's mom on Wednesday and his dad's mom passed away on Thursday.'
Because of those family tragedies, Moredock missed practice both of those days. By missing those practices, team policy required Moredock to start Friday's game on the bench.
Without its 6-foot-9 post roaming inside, Lakeridge got off to a slow start, going scoreless for more than two minutes to start the game. But Sandy was even colder as the visiting Pioneers waited until the 2:46 mark of the first quarter before scoring their initial basket.
By then, Moredock had already made his first appearance in the game, and shortly after entering, he hit his first shot - a three-pointer. That put the Pacers in front 7-0. The lead then grew to 9-0 on a steal and lay-up by Kenan Ozgur.
Ozgur finished the first quarter with six points while Moredock had five, including a jump hook that gave Lakeridge a 19-7 lead as the period expired.
Things got so bad for a slightly disorganized Sandy team in the second quarter that Pioneers coach Chris Meyers promised to pull any player who dribbled the ball on offense. Within three minutes, Meyers had replaced everyone that was on the floor.
All of that substituting did help a little bit, though, as Sandy cut the Pacers' lead from 23-7 to 29-20. But Ozgur followed with a twisting fast-break layin and Leuvano added a reverve lay-up to push Lakeridge's margin to 33-20 at intermission.
Frankly, considering Sandy's difficulties on offense, the Pacers could have taken an even bigger lead into the locker room.
'In the first half, we did not shoot the ball well at all,' Nuss said. 'It was just kind of rag-tag.
'We had a goal to hold them to four points or less in the first three minutes, and we accomplished that goal but were only up two to nothing. You'd think if you hold a team (scoreless) you'd have a little more of a cushion.'
In the third quarter, Lakeridge effectively put the game away with 11 unanswered points, which gave the Pacers a 46-22 lead at the four-minute mark. Luevano led the run with five points while Moredock had four.
'I thought we did a pretty good job in the third quarter,' Nuss said. 'We were making shots and getting the ball inside. I thought Graham really had a strong second half.'
Lakeridge finished the game with four players in double figures, including Joe Cramer with 13 and Alex Gay with 10. Sandy (now 0-3) was led by Ryan Trosko with nine points.
After an easy game against Sandy, the Pacers had their hands full Tuesday night at Franklin. In that game, Lakeridge led 16-13 after one quarter and 27-21 at halftime.
But the Quakers turned the game around with a 23-point third-quarter, which gave Franklin a 44-41 lead heading into the final period. The Quakers stayed hot in that final period while scoring 19 points, but Lakeridge was even hotter with a 22-point effort. That, of course, left the game tied at 63-all. In the overtime period, Lakeridge stayed hot, outscoring Franklin by six to win the game 75-69.
Cramer, Moredock and Luevano combined for 55 points in that game, which accounted for 71 percent of Lakeridge's production.
The Pacers will be back in action next Monday thorugh Wednesday when they host their annual holiday basketball tournament. In addition to Lakeridge, Roosevelt, Hillsboro, Tualatin, North Medford, Gresham, Glencoe and Horizon Christian are slated to participate.
Lakeridge's first-round game will be against Horizon Christian on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The championship game will be played on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.