Pacer girls ready for league play
Lakeridge advance to Interstate semis before losing to Jefferson
At some point people are going to have to stop referring to the Pacers as 'young,' 'inexperienced' and 'with potential.' Instead, teams around the state are starting to realize that qualifiers aren't necessary, Lakeridge is playing some pretty good basketball.
All the Pacers have done this season is win consistently and at the Interstate Shooutout, facing some of the best competition it has seen all year, Lakeridge advanced to the semifinals and turned a few heads in the process.
Lakeridge has had a penchant for close games this season and found itself in a pair of hard-fought contests to open the tournament. First up was South Salem, a team that matched up well with the Pacers.
The Saxons jumped out to a small lead early on, going up 10-7 lead after eight minutes but the Pacers rallied back quickly. Lakeridge went on a run in the second quarter, scoring 19 points. The team did a nice job getting the ball to its leading scorer, Kai Schmidt, who helped the Pacers build a 26-20 lead.
Courtney Bird had a nice game at point guard for Lakeridge, distributing the ball and scoring 12 points. The Pacers struggled offensively in the third quarter, allowing the Saxons to tie the game but, once again, Lakeridge went on a run to quickly regain momentum
Schmidt knocked down a big three-pointer to stake Lakeridge to a lead and the Saxons' late rally fell one point short, allowing the Pacers to advance.
In the second round, the Pacers competed in what was perhaps the most bizarre game of the tournament. Early on it appeared that South Eugene might run away with the game. The Axemen took a 9-0 lead while forcing a number of turnovers.
Lauren Joyce scored Lakeridge's first points with a three-pointer and Kiersten McNairy converted a three-point play as the Pacers quickly mounted a 10-0 run of their own.
'We have a tendency to be ugly at times and then get back in the ballgame,' Lakeridge coach Mike Melin said.
The Pacers controlled the boards in the second quarter but only hit two field goals. The Axemen also struggled shooting but a late steal and basket gave them a one-point lead at the half.
The third quarter started similar to the first with the Axemen going on a quick 7-0 run in the opening minute of play. But Schmidt helped Lakeridge rally, knocking down two jumpers to tie the game.
'We've had our inside game going at times and our outside game working. It was nice to see them both tonight,' Melin said.
Lakeridge kept its momentum going in the fourth quarter and, at one point, put together an 18-0 spurt that began midway through the third period. That helped the Pacers take a nine-point advantage.
'We came out in the second half and knew what we needed to get done. We had to play team ball and not worry about what the other team was doing,' Schmidt said.
But it was a game of runs and momentum shifts. The Axemen weren't finished and quickly went on an 11-2 spurt of their own to knot the score at 42.
Lexi Ross then ended the drought for Lakeridge with a lay-up and, after South Eugene tied the game again, Schmidt gave her team a 44-42 edge. Kayla Glanville followed with a steal and a lay-up but South Eugene hit a three-pointer and then, after the Pacers tried to stall, the Saxons' Lacy Clark came up with a steal and was fouled.
She hit one free throw to tie the game. Lakeridge took possession to set up a game-winning play but, with 18.7 seconds to play, Schmidt was fouled, which put her to the line for a one-and-one opportunity.
Schmidt calmly knocked down both shots and South Eugene couldn't answer.
'I knew I had to hit them,' Schmidt said of the clutch foul shots.
The win put Lakeridge into the semifinals where it took on Jefferson, arguably the best team in 5A and perhaps one of the best teams in the state.
The Pacers gave the Democrats one of their best games of the tournament. Lakeridge kept up with Jefferson's quick and athletic guards before a lull in the third quarter cost them the game.
'They're maybe one of the best teams of the state and we were able to hang with them. I hate to use the term moral victory but it was a great experience,' Melin said.
Jefferson's Nyesha Sims was unconscious for the Democrats in the first quarter. The senior knocked down a pair of three-pointers and had 12 of her team's 14 points in the period.
'Against these guys you have to give them something. We gave them the long ball and sometimes it eats you alive,' Melin said.
But Lakeridge rallied from an early deficit to tie the game at 12-12 before a late steal and basket gave Jefferson a two-point lead after the opening stanza.
Turnovers hurt the Pacers in the second quarter as did foul trouble. Even though the Democrats were the aggressors on defense, hounding Lakeridge's guards, the Pacers, at one point, had been whistled for eight fouls compared to Jefferson's two.
Still, the shooting of Joyce kept the Pacers in it. The senior had eight points in the quarter including a pair of three-pointers, the second of which gave Lakeridge a 25-24 lead. But Jefferson regained the advantage and rattled home a three-pointer at the buzzer to go up by four points at the break.
The Democrats blew the game open after the half. Jefferson upped its pressure in the backcourt and Lakeridge couldn't find an answer. The Pacers turned the ball over 12 times in the third quarter alone and Jefferson went on a 9-0 run.
Lakeridge responded with a 6-0 run of its own and McNairy had five points in the quarter but Jefferson didn't look back. The Pacers rebounded well all game, particularly McNairy, who had nine, and Glanville and Schmidt, who had eight apiece. The Pacers played good defense in the fourth quarter but struggled to convert in the paint, hitting just two of 12 shots in the quarter en route to a 62-48 defeat.
'To have an experience like this is great for these girls to prepare them for Oregon City and Clackamas and the league,' Melin said.
That set up a battle for third place against a familiar foe. Former Lakeridge coach Heather Roberts' Canby squad has quietly become one of the top teams in its league and it scored a pair of blowout victories in the first two games of the tournament before falling to North Medford in the semis.
Before the game, Roberts admitted that her team is talented but inconsistent. Unfortunately for Lakeridge, Canby brought it's 'A game' on Saturday.
The Cougars shot the lights out and put on a clinic, winning the game 71-44. But, despite the lopsided margin, Lakeridge didn't play a bad game. Canby simply had an answer at every turn.
The Pacers did an admirable job of breaking down the Cougars' vaunted press early on which resulted in some easy lay-ups. Ross had a terrific first quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds. Glanville added five rebounds of her own in the quarter.
But Canby's shooters were blazing, hitting a pair of three-pointers while building a 20-12 lead after the opening stanza.
'Their shooting percentage was phenomenal. They were unreal, especially for the fourth day of the tournament,' Melin said.
The shots kept dropping for the Cougars as they continued to torch Lakeridge's zone defense. And when the Pacers went out to defend the perimeter, Canby succeeded in passing the ball into its post for easy buckets.
'They were loose and they've got pretty good talent. Frankly they just hit shots we didn't think they would make,' Melin said.
Lakeridge's shooting touch went south in the second quarter and Canby held a 40-21 advantage at the break. This time the deficit was too big for the Pacers to overcome. Joyce hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter but struggled to get off good shots for the remainder of the game.
Bird had the first six points for Lakeridge in the fourth quarter as Canby backed off its press. Melin was pleased with the team's performance in the tournament and feels that the Pacers are ready to take on their tough league.
Ross had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Lakeridge, Schmidt and Bird had eight points and Glanville had 10 rebounds in the game.
Lakeridge faces McKay on Friday before squaring off against West Linn next Tuesday on the road.