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Lakeridge boys water polo teams season ends at state

The Lakeridge boys water polo team capped one of its best seasons in school history with a recent appearance at the state tournament.

The Pacers knocked off Hillsboro with a strong second-half surge in what was the fourth time the teams had played each other this season.

The game was close in the early going but Lakeridge wore Hillsboro out in the second half.

"At that point we each knew each other so well. They have some really outstanding players but we have balance and conditioning," Lakeridge coach Frank Obiesie said.

Lakeridge pulled away early in the fourth quarter, going up by six goals and holding on for a 15-12 victory.

That allowed the team to advance to the fifth-place game against Lincoln and the contest turned out to be one of the most entertaining of the entire tournament.

Ironically, with the way the brackets panned out, the third-place game was actually played between two teams who had lost to both Lakeridge and Lincoln earlier in the year so, in some ways, the fifth place game almost meant more.

The game against the Cardinals was exceptionally close with neither team able to create much separation from the other.

Lincoln's obvious strategy was to get the ball up to its two explosive scorers and hopefully create mismatches within the Pacers' defense.

Lakeridge countered by having its own star John Moon concentrate more on defense in an attempt to shut down the Cardinals' attack.

"It really was kind of a chess match," Obiesie said.

Lincoln went up early but the Pacers were able to settle down quickly and slow the Cardinals down.

Lakeridge had plenty of scoring opportunities and actually out-shot Lincoln by a significant margin.

"It was pretty evenly matched and we had more than enough opportunities but the difference was their goalie. He was terrific," Obiesie said.

Lakeridge was able to stay on Lincoln's heels, getting goals from Moon, Johnny Woodcock and Matt Berman.

But Lincoln would build a two-goal advantage late in the fourth quarter, forcing Lakeridge to switch its focus to the offense and the Cardinals would tack on one final goal in a 9-6 victory.

Despite the loss, Obiesie was thrilled with how his team played and with the season on the whole.

"It's similar to the triple overtime game we played against Lake Oswego two years ago. We lost but I knew we'd taken the next step. There's nothing but positives to take from this game because it showed me that we're a legitimate top tier team now," Obiesie said.

Lakeridge will lose Moon next season but will still return a very strong squad that hopes to build from this season's success.

"This is the bar now. Most of our guys are competing for the swim team this winter too which is a great sign. They're already looking forward to coming back," Obiesie said.