After playing a string of tough preseason opponents, the Lake Oswego boys basketball team was probably due a break.
That breather of sorts came courtesy of the Gresham Gophers, who had a tough time through most of December and then hit probably their lowest point of the season with a 58-26 loss to the Lakers last Wednesday.
No one had an easier time than 6-foot-7 junior center Max Jacobsen, who hit his first nine shots and 11 of his first 13 en route to a game-high 22 points. In a way, it was almost unfair to brag about the night Jacobsen had because most of Gresham's players were four or five inches shorter than him.
In an attempt to overcome their lack of height, the Gophers often double-teamed Jacobsen when he got the ball down low. Still, the Laker big man managed to negotiate his way past the defense for one easy basket after another.
'Just about everything he threw went in,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said after the game. 'But he can do that even against taller guys.'
Thanks largely to Jacobsen's shooting and some unselfish team play by his teammates, the Lakers had an easy time against the Gophers through the first 10 minutes of the game. During that span, Jacobsen hit eight consecutive shots. In addition, Elliot Babcock-Krenk canned a pair of baskets and Nick Halberg drilled a three-pointer, and Lake Oswego had a whopping 23-5 lead.
Virtually everyone who witnessed the game had to believe that the contest was over at that point. So, it's not surprising that the players began to relax a bit. The Lakers did put together a 14-3 run a short time later that pushed their lead to 37-13. But of the remainder of the game was played in cruise control.
'We were a little flat after a good first quarter,' Shoff admitted. 'You want to play to keep getting better and not play down to where your opponent is, and we didn't do that.'
It would have been hard to find many faults in the way Lake Oswego played that night. The team played superb defense most of the night, but the offense didn't always keep pace.
Afterward, Shoff asked his players for their thoughts about how well they played.
'And they said, 'not too good,'' Shoff recounted.
Wow. Talk about being hard on yourself.
In response, Shoff said he was really pleased with his team's defensive effort, but he felt his offense quit attacking the basket in the second half.
'We have to have guys who aggressively want the ball,' the coach said. 'That doesn't mean you have to shoot it, but we had guys who were passing up great shots.'
The Lakers also used their defense as their calling card in an earlier game against McMinnville. Coming into that contest, McMinnville's Kyle Long had been on fire, averaging close to 25 points a game.
Shoff assigned Babcock-Krenk to cover Long and asked other players to help out whenever possible. They held Long to 10 points in one of Lake Oswego's best defensive efforts of the season. In addition, Babcock-Krenk had a team-high 21 points as the Lakers rolled to an easy 64-42 victory.
'The guys did a great job of knowing where (Long) was,' Shoff said. 'That was really a good win.'
In fact, the Lakers recorded a number of good wins during the preseason, which ended with Tuesday night's 58-33 victory over McNary and improved Lake Oswego's season record to 9-2.
'Going into the season, if I knew our team was going to be 9-2, I'd be pretty happy,' the coach said.
In the game against the Celtics, Jacobsen and Babcock-Krenk shared scoring honors with 18 points apiece.