Sometimes it's hard to find a silver lining in a difficult loss. Fortunately, the Lakeridge girls basketball team still has almost an entire league season to make up for Tuesday night's 51-41 loss to West Linn.
Since wins are always tough to come by against the TRL's top-tier teams, Tuesday night's game had some added importance even though it was the league opener for the Pacers.
The Lions entered the contest ranked fifth in the state in the Associated Press poll and seventh in the coaches poll. But the Pacers were hoping that West Linn would be out of sync with the team's flashy point guard, Rosetta Adzasu, unavailable and watching from the sideline.
For a while, the Lions did appear to be somewhat disjointed as Lakeridge jumped to early leads of 3-0 (on a three-pointer by Lauren Joyce), then 5-4 (after a hoop by Kai Schmidt) and again at 9-7 (on baskets by Lexi Ross and Schmidt). However, that would be the last time the Pacers would hold the lead for the remainder of the night.
West Linn then scored the last seven points of the first quarter to take a 14-9 lead. Problems continued for Lakeridge in the second period as the Pacers gave up two baskets for every one they scored. But Lakeridge managed to stay within striking distance thanks to a three-pointer by Andrea Hopkins and a basket by Emily Dungey just before the halftime buzzer sounded. Still, the Lions took a 28-18 lead into the break.
The biggest blow came when West Linn outscored Lakeridge 10-2 through the first five minutes of the third quarter. West Linn ended that period with a 41-24 lead, and things could have been even worse for the Pacers but the Lions hit just 1 of 8 free-throw attempts in that stanza.
To the Pacers' credit, they did outplay West Linn in the final quarter. In fact, Lakeridge held the host Lions to just two field goals in that final period. But West Linn improved its foul shooting just enough - hitting 6 of 12 attempts - to keep Lakeridge at a safe distance.
The Pacers refused to give up, though. With the help of a full-court press, they forced West Linn into a string of turnovers in that period. That fueled a mini comeback that was mainly led by Schmidt and Kiersten McNairy. Schmidt scored seven points in that period, including a three-pointer. She finished with a team-high 13. McNairy had all six of her points in that stanza.
The Pacers trailed by 18 points on three occasions midway through the second half, but they managed to cut that deficit in half by late in the game. With that kind of effort, the Pacers probably wish they had begun their comeback at halftime.
By the end, it was apparent that West Linn is clearly more than a one-person team. In Adzasu's absence, the Lions had a number of players step up and make major contributions.
Most noticeable was the play of senior guard Emily Wattman-Turner, who scored a team-high 15 points, including a trio of three-pointers. The Lions also benefited from the play of their three freshmen - Andi Maleike, Elise Miller and Amy Christensen - who combined for 22 points.
The Pacers had eight players who logged points, but Schmidt was the only one to score more than six.
The schedule won't get any easier for the Pacers, who will host third-ranked Oregon City on Friday. Then, they'll take on a vastly improved Putnam team next Tuesday and travel to cross-town rival Lake Oswego a week from Friday.