Lakers not just a one man team
Things didn't look too good at the start of last Saturday's game against Franklin of Bellevue, Wash., that state's defending 4A champs. Lake Oswego found itself down 8-0 and the team's star, Kevin Love, was saddled with two early fouls.
With such a bad start, it would have been understandable if Lake Oswego had gone on to lose the contest. Instead, the Lakers quickly clawed their way back into the game and then got major contributions from virtually everyone on the team en route to an impressive 69-62 victory over the Quakers.
It would be hard to ignore the game turned in by Love, who had 36 points and 19 rebounds. He also played approximately the last four minutes of the game with four fouls. Without his teammates, though, Love would have been hard-pressed to win this game by himself.
For starters, the big guy got plenty of help from point guard Ernie Spada, who had 13 points and five assists. He started with a big three-pointer that pulled Lake Oswego within a point after Franklin's early run. Then he hit four of four free-throw attempts near the end to ice the victory for the Lakers.
In addition, Kyle Lavender, who wasn't expected to play after injuring his right thumb the night before, hit two clutch free throws and added an even bigger three-pointer during the fourth quarter. And Landon Ainge hit a couple of tough shots to give his team a spark early in the game.
It truly was a team effort. In fact, Love told Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff after the game that the Lakers wouldn't have won the contest without the clutch contributions of his teammates.
After taking some time to reflect on the importance of beating Washington's best team in such a manner, Shoff called it one of the top five wins during his tenure as the Lakers' head coach.
'It had a March (playoff) atmosphere,' Shoff said. '… And we never cracked.'
Shoff knew Franklin would be good, as one might expect for a defending state champion. But the Quakers were even better than Shoff had predicted.
'I didn't realize they were going to be that physical or that quick,' he said.
Once the Quakers jumped ahead 8-0, Shoff knew his team would have its hands full. But the coach didn't sit back and let fate take over. He quickly switched from a man-to-man offense to a zone and changed from a standard offense to one that spread the court out more. The move worked wonders as the Lakers almost immediately seized the momentum.
'We just started moving the ball around and got it inside to Kevin,' Shoff said.
At one point in the third quarter, the Lakers had a 15-point lead and seemed to be on the verge of blowing the game open.
'Then everything kind of fell apart,' Shoff said.
In fact, Franklin tied the game with approximately four minutes left in the contest. That's when Lavender hit his three-pointer, which gave the Lakers the lead for good. Later on, Love added a pair of baskets to give Lake Oswego some breathing room. Then Spada hit is four late free throws to put the game away.
'It was such a team effort,' Shoff said. 'Our kids just hung in there. They found a way to win.'
That huge victory came on the heels of an easy 71-43 win over Kennedy, another Seattle-area team that was obviously over-matched by the Lakers.
'They're actually a good team,' Shoff said of Kennedy. 'They were real athletic.'
But, some of the team's top players were just turning out for basketball after the school's football team made a long run through the state playoffs.
Frankly, it might have taken the entire football team to stop Love. But in this game, the Lakers' fortunes didn't depend solely on their senior center, like they did the week before against Lincoln.
This time, 'it really was a team effort,' Shoff said. 'The week before, we needed all of Kevin we could get.'
Against Kennedy, the Lakers got 13 points from Spada and 10 from sophomore forward Max Jacobsen. Plus, junior guard Nick Halberg, who was expected to swing between the varsity and junior varsity squad, scored a trio of baskets and showed that he might be just a varsity player.
'He's a cool cucumber, I'd guess you'd call it,' Shoff said of Halberg. 'He's always in the right place … He could end up playing quite a bit.'
And then there was Love, who scored 26 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and blocked five shots. Through the first three games of the season, Love is averaging 34 points and 23 rebounds per game. Maybe the best part of Love's game against Kennedy was the fact that he was the ultimate team player.
'Kevin did a great job of getting other guys involved,' Shoff said.
The game got out of hand rather quickly as Lake Oswego jumped to an 18-0 lead halfway through the opening period. That made it easy for Shoff to spread the playing time around. In fact, all nine guys who were suited down saw an almost equal amount of court time.