By BILL STEWART
It's really early in the season to be talking about must-win games, but the Lakeridge boys basketball team faced one of those contests Tuesday at Putnam. To the Pacers' credit, they delivered with the pressure on and they did so in dramatic fashion.
With so much riding on the outcome, it was only fitting that the contest was decided on a basket in the final seconds. Chris Hoch scored the winning hoop, hitting a lay-up with 3.5 seconds left to lift Lakeridge to a 55-53 victory.
The Pacers actually controlled the game early, jumping to a 23-12 lead through the first eight minutes of play. The lead then swelled to 16 points by the midway point of the second period.
But Putnam needed to win Tuesday's game almost as badly as Lakeridge did, and the host Kingsmen responded with an impressive comeback. After trailing much of the way, the Kingsmen managed to tie the game at 50-all.
The Pacers quickly responded, though, when Trevan Hertz hit a lay-up to put Lakeridge back in front at 52-50. The Pacers got the ball back a short time later and Josh Little was fouled. He hit one of two foul shots to make it 53-50.
The two teams then played a game of give-away as Lakeridge lost possession twice and Putnam gave up the ball on a five-second call.
Putnam didn't waste this opportunity as Derek Ridder canned a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. Lakeridge players complained that Ridder had been standing on the three-point line when he shot the ball, but the Kingsmen were awarded three points anyway and the score was knotted again at 53-all.
After calling a time out, Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss diagramed a play for Tyler Larsen, who finished with a team-high 19 points. But Larsen found himself double-teamed and was forced to give up the ball. The first pass went to Ben Nelson, who then found Hoch for the score.
The Kingsmen still had one last chance to either tie or win the game, but their efforts were foiled when Lakeridge prevented them from getting a good shot before time expired.
'That was a big win,' Nuss said afterward. 'If you're going to make the playoffs, these are games that you've got to win,' the coach added.
The victory improved Lakeridge's league record to 1-2, which is the same mark that Putnam has. Both teams are now tied for fifth place in the league standings, but they're only a half-game out of third place.
The victory was a nice turnaround for Pacers after they suffered an 81-46 loss to top-ranked Oregon City last Friday. Lakeridge couldn't stop Oregon City center Sam Schafer, who scored 21 points while hitting 7 of 8 field goals.
'He was pretty tough,' Nuss said. 'He's going Division I, so that says something.'
Meanwhile, the Lake Oswego girls basketball team seems to be on the verge of hitting its stride after victories over Putnam and Milwaukie.
In Tuesday's game against the Mustangs, the Lakers quickly established themselves as the superior team by jumping to a 30-6 lead through the first quarter. If Lake Oswego coach Paula Pietrok had any concerns about whether her team would take a struggling Milwaukie team for granted, that first quarter had to be a relief.
The Lakers did lose a little bit of ground in the second quarter, but they out-scored Milwaukie by 17 points in the second half.
Shannon Reader led all scorers with 20 points while Becky Luetjen, who is now back in action after suffering a severely sprained ankle, added 16 points to the cause. 'It's good to have Becky back,' Pietrok said.
After losing their league opener to Clackamas, the Lakers are now 2-1 in league play, and they're tied for second place with West Linn and Clackamas. However, Lakeridge is just one game back.
Considering the way the preseason went for the Lakers, Pietrok is excited about the improvement her team has shown.
'We're making baby steps but we're getting there,' the coach said.
It will be interesting to see what happens in Friday's Civil War game against Lakeridge. It will be Pietrok's first game against LO's main rival, but she's only worried about how well her team is playing.
'They're getting there,' Pietrok said. 'If we execute and we're patient, we'll be OK.'