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Laker girls split pair at Shootout

LO plays half of tourney without key scorer
by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Kai Schmidt draws a double team as she drives the lane during last week’s Interstate Shootout game against South Salem. Schmidt scored a team-high 16 points as Lakeridge registered a come-from-behind 48-47 victory.

The Lake Oswego girls basketball team's brutally difficult preseason came to a bittersweet conclusion at the Interstate Shootout last week. The Lakers split four games but lost the services of one of their top players for the final two contests.

In the team's second-round loss to North Medford, Becky Luetjen took an awkward fall while defending against a fast break and sprained her ankle. At press time it was still unclear when she would return to action.

The bad news for the Lakers is that, even though the preseason is over, the Three Rivers League may be the most competitive in the state this year. Oregon City, Clackamas and West Linn are all ranked in the top 10 and Lake Oswego opens league play on Friday against the Cavs.

At the Shootout, Lake Oswego played its best game on the first day against Sunset. The Lakers came out fired up, opening the game on an 11-2 run. Lake Oswego worked the ball into post Shannon Reader as often as possible and she responded, pouring in eight points in the opening stanza.

'We're working on the getting the ball in more because we know we have height,' Luetjen said.

Meanwhile, the Apollos struggled mightily shooting the ball in the early going but they hit a shot at the buzzer to make it a 15-8 game after eight minutes.

To open the second quarter, Lake Oswego turned the ball over on four straight possessions but Sunset still had trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Hannah Hogensen knocked down a three-pointer to break the Lakers' drought and Lisa Blakely knocked down a shot from behind the arc at the buzzer to give her team a 25-17 lead at the break.

Turnovers kept Lake Oswego from running away with the game in the first half. When the Lakers were able to get into their half-court offense, they were remarkably efficient, hitting 11 of 16 shots.

Sunset upped its defensive pressure in the third quarter and forced eight Laker turnovers in the period. The Apollos also did a terrific job on the boards. Lauren Pahl was a one-person wrecking crew in the quarter, scoring eight points and hauling in seven rebounds.

Luetjen had five of the Lakers' seven points in the quarter but the hosts found themselves trailing 33-32 with one period to play.

'I think at half time (Sunset) had a wake-up call and they came out on fire and we came out like we were still sitting in the locker room,' coach Paula Pietrok said.

Sunset appeared like it might cruise to victory early in the fourth quarter as it quickly built its biggest lead of the game. But Luetjen converted a three-point play and then scored another basket to tie the game.

'Throughout the game a lot of different people went on runs. We can trust everyone to score and it just happened that I did in the fourth quarter,' Luetjen said.

Lake Oswego was clutch from the foul line and it turned out to be the difference in the game. The Lakers hit 13 of 15 foul shots in the fourth quarter to rebuild its lead and they held Sunset to just three field goals as they advanced to the second round of the championship bracket.

'We gave up the lead, gave up control of the game and then got it back and for this group, that's a really big step,' Pietrok said.

The Lakers ran into a determined North Medford squad in their second game. The Black Tornado put on a stifling press that gave Lake Oswego fits all night. The Lakers' defense was solid which kept them in the game until the fourth quarter but, in the end, the eventual runner's up in the tournament were too much to handle.

'We were a step slow all night and you can't do that against good teams,' Pietrok said.

Lake Oswego could only muster two points in the first quarter which came on free throws by Reader. The Black Tornado press forced 10 first-quarter turnovers. Fortunately for Lake Oswego, North Medford struggled shooting the ball close to the hoop and could only take an 8-2 lead.

Needing a spark on offense the Lakers went to their go-to player in Luetjen. Luetjen scored her team's first seven points of the quarter but, midway through the period she went down with the ankle injury which left her in tears on the court.

After Luetjen's departure, Kendall Guthrie banked in a three-pointer for the Lakers but North Medford dominated the glass in the quarter and took a 22-15 lead at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, Luetjen returned for Lake Oswego, albeit with a noticeable limp. She converted a three-point play, cutting the lead to four points but that was as close as the Lakers would get. Two turnovers led to Black Tornado baskets, which pushed the lead to 10 points with one quarter to play.

'We needed to tighten our shoestrings, dig in and be able to make a run at the end,' Pietrok said.

Lake Oswego failed to get anything going on offense in the fourth quarter. The team was just 1-of-12 shooting in the period and the bucket came from Luetjen. Reader hit four free throws in the quarter but it simply wasn't enough to overcome North Medford.

If the Lakers were going to rebound, it would have to be without Luetjen who was sidelined for the rest of the tournament. Yet, Lake Oswego responded with a tough come-from-behind victory over Crescent Valley in the third round.

It wasn't pretty but, considering the circumstances, the Lakers will take it. Lake Oswego held a significant rebounding advantage early on. Despite being double and triple-teamed, Reader had three early boards as did Simone Sullivan.

'It was frustrating but you have to play with it and keep your cool and not let it get to you,' Reader said.

Still, the Lakers turned the ball over 19 times in the first half and struggled to work the ball into Reader. As a result, it was a low-scoring affair and Crescent Valley led 15-14 at the break.

Kate Childs got Lake Oswego off to a quick start in the third quarter, knocking in back-to-back hoops. However, Reader and Sullivan each picked up their third fouls and Crescent Valley's Janelle Batista had 11 points in the quarter as the Raiders took a four-point lead.

Reader continued to be hounded in the paint during the final quarter but the Lakers' defense stepped up. Blakely had a pair of buckets to tie the game and a three-pointer by Childs cut another Raiders lead to one point.

'It was nice to get some outside shots and it helps release the pressure in the middle,' Reader said.

Reader then scored her first basket of the quarter to give her team the lead. Miranda Babcock-Krenk also knocked down a jumper to keep her team on top.

However, with a two-point lead, the Lakers turned the ball over twice in the final minutes to keep Crescent Valley in the game. On the Raiders' final possession, a long pass to mid-court was intercepted by Blakely to seal the victory.

'I think we played good team ball. It was hard without Becky but I think this showed that we can still do something right without her,' Reader said.

In the final round, Lake Oswego looked like it might ride its momentum to a 3-1 finish at the tournament as it took an early 15-6 lead against South Eugene.

However, the Axemen rallied quickly, erasing nearly all of the deficit by the half. South Eugene then played tight defense, forcing numerous turnovers and putting Lake Oswego into a hole that it couldn't quite climb out of.

Childs and Reader led the Lakers with 10 points apiece.