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LO girls lose Shootout opener

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Ali Lomax slides past a defender for a layin during Wednesday’s game with Tualatin in the first round of the Laker Interstate Shootout. Tualatin won the game 57-55.

After just one round of this year's Laker Interstate Shootout, one thing was perfectly clear. The host Lakers would have no chance to win their own tournament.

Popular sentiment gave the Lakers a good chance to win the event this year, but that possibility became a moot point when Lake Oswego fell 57-55 to Tualatin on Wednesday.

It was a game that either team could have won but it was also a game that neither team seemed willing to win as the contest turned into a turnover fest.

For the first quarter and a half, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched. But a string of Lake Oswego turnovers helped Tualatin turn a 21-all tie into a 34-21 lead at halftime.

In attempting to regain that lost ground, Lake Oswego opted for a full-court press to start the third quarter, and the Timberwolves responded with their own string of miscues. That, in turn, led to 11 unanswered points by the Lakers, which were scored by five different players, and suddenly Lake Oswego was back in the game at 40-36.

Early in the fourth period, Tualatin's Sam Child hit a three-pointer to give the Wolves a 48-39 lead, but Lake Oswego came back with seven straight points to make it 48-46 with three minutes left in the contest. Two times after that, the Lakers managed to cut their deficit to a single point but they never could regain the lead as the Wolves put the game away at the foul line.

Becky Luetjen led the Lakers with 15 points while Sarah Griffin, Ali Lomax and Margaret Johnson had nine points each.

The Lake Oswego boys basketball team, meanwhile, returned to in-state action for the first time since a season-opening victory over Lincoln in early December.

Since then, the Lakers have won twice in the Seattle area, including a victory over defending Washington 4A state champion Franklin. Then there was a victory over Centennial, a team from Los Angeles. That game was played at UCLA's Pauly Pavilion, where Lake Oswego star Kevin Love will be playing next year.

Even though the Lakers are Oregon's defending state champs, a perfect record up to this point has been an impressive achievement.

'For us to go up and beat Franklin … and then go to L.A. the week after and beat a pretty good Centennial team, I like what I see so far,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said as he prepared his squad for the first round of the Les Schwab Invitational tournament, which began Wednesday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

There are some people around the state who believe that Lake Oswego is basically a one-man team. They look at the fact that Love is averaging 31.8 points per game while the team's No. 2 scorer, Ernie Spada, is only averaging 9.5 per game. But the Lakers would have been hard-pressed to beat Franklin without the help of Love's teammates.

'Our team unity is really strong,' Shoff said. 'We have different guys that are playing roles at different times. We've got the best player in the country, but other guys are stepping up and playing their roles … and then Ernie has played real well the last couple of games.'

When the Lakers are on a roll offensively, they can be almost unstoppable, especially when the outside shooters are hot. But, lately it's been the team's defense that Shoff has been most impressed with. Through the team's first four games, the Lakers have limited their opponents to 47.5 points per contest.

'This could be a very, very good defensive team,' Shoff said of his troops. 'They take pride in it and I think we're already ahead of where we were last year at this time … If we shoot the ball well, with our defense, I think we're going to be in a lot of games.'

With an absolutely brutal preseason schedule, Shoff figured his team had a minimal chance at best to be undefeated by the end of the calendar year. The Lakers have already negotiated a couple of major obstacles in that schedule, but the Les Schwab tournament could be an even bigger test.

Of course, everybody's favorite to win the tournament is Virginia's Oak Hill Academy, a prep school that probably could beat a few Division I college teams. Oak Hill and Lake Oswego could potentially meet in the tournament championship game on Saturday. But to advance that far, Lake Oswego would first have to beat South Medford in the semifinals. That match-up, which would be a replay of last spring's state championship game, could be the most interesting contest of the Schwab tournament.

'Yeah, the tournament would love to see that,' Shoff said of a possible Lake Oswego-South Medford showdown. 'If we have to play them, it would be a good test for us early in the year … But my hope is that we play them in March on the last night (of the state tournament), like we did last year.'

In addition to Lake Oswego and South Medford, the top half of the Schwab bracket includes Canby, the team Lake Oswego barely beat in the second round of the last season's state playoffs, and Jefferson, the team the Lakers beat in the semifinals each of the last two years. In the bottom half of the bracket, along with Oak Hill, are Oregon City, Jesuit, Westview and Wheeler, a team from Georgia that is ranked among the best in the nation.

Missing from this year's Schwab field will be Lakeridge, which played in the last two tournaments. This year, Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss opted to take his squad instead to Bend for a three-day tournament.

Nuss figures the Pacers have a decent chance to bring home the first-place trophy from that tournament. That would be a nice turnaround from last week when Lakeridge lost all three of its games in its own holiday tournament.

Things got off to a bad start when the Pacers turned in an uninspired effort in a 62-53 loss to Tigard, which was a last-minute substitution for Horizon Christian. That loss led to a 66-48 setback against Gresham the following day and then a 66-59 loss to Tualatin on the final day of the tourney.

'All three (of Lakeridge's opponents) have a chance to be near the top of their respective leagues,' Nuss predicted. 'But I feel we could have beaten all three of them….

'The common denominator was we didn't defend as well as we should have,' Nuss said. 'All three (opponents) shot over 50 percent against us.'

After that subpar showing, Nuss decided to give his team three days off to enjoy the holidays with their families. By the time they returned, everyone had essentially forgotten about the previous week and shifted their attention to the tournament at Summit High School.

'Now we've got a chance to redeem ourselves,' Nuss said. 'We couldn't win our tournament, so maybe we can win their tournament.'