After starting the league season with a pair of losses, the Lakeridge girls basketball team couldn't afford to make it three in a row.
So, the Pacers did the only thing they could do Tuesday night - they beat an improved Putnam team and did it in convincing fashion with a 58-42 decision.
Aside from a rash of early turnovers, the Pacers looked like they did when they scored some impressive non-league victories in December. And even though they lost their first two league games, the Pacers didn't play that poorly in those contests, especially in a 12-point loss to Oregon City.
But losing can do funny things to a team's psyche, so there were a lot of people wondering how the Pacers would respond against Putnam. A lot of those questions were answered when Lakeridge took control of the game early in the second quarter and never let up the rest of the way.
'We've been kind of a Jekyll and Hyde team, and that goes back to inexperience,' Lakeridge coach Mike Melin admitted after the Putnam game. 'It's really important that we just get consistent.'
After a solid showing in the Interstate Shootout, the Pacers looked good at times and then not so good in their TRL opener against West Linn last week. Then, Lakeridge bounced back with possibly its best showing of the year against Oregon City.
Most Pioneer fans were probably expecting their team to win by 30 points or more, which was essentially what happened in Oregon City's two outings against Lakeridge last year. But the Pacers proved to be a pesky bunch last Friday.
'We played well. It was the best game we've played,' Melin said. 'It was kids all executing at the same level and taking care of the ball.'
The Pacers then maintained that effort (for the most part) against the Kingsmen, which was just what Melin was looking for.
'We had a little bit of adversity (early) but we did a good job of battling against that,' Melin said after the Putnam game.
The Pacers scored the first two baskets of the game - one by Kayla Glanville and one by Kai Schmidt. But the next five minutes proved to be an adventure as Lakeridge had trouble negotiating its way through Putnam's press.
'With inexperience, it's just kids getting too amped up,' Melin said when asked about the turnovers. '… It looked like a greased pig for a while. We had a lot of mishandles.'
Those miscues opened the door for Putnam to take a 13-8 lead at the two-minute mark of the first quarter. Nine of those 13 points came from junior guard Miranda Martine, who seemed to be unstoppable at times. She finished the night with a game-high 24.
Then, after being their own worst enemy for the first six minutes of the game, the Pacers quickly turned the contest around with a 17-2 run that turned a five-point deficit into a 25-15 lead with 4:47 left in the second quarter.
'It was really nice to see us execute the way we did on offense,' Melin said. 'We spread them out, got some good looks and didn't hurry things.'
Everyone seemed to get in on the act as six different players scored during that run. And no one had more than four points during that stretch - an honor that was shared by Lexi Ross and Courtney Bird.
The Pacers did cool off a bit during the middle portion of the second period, but they heated up again in the final 90 seconds before halftime. A basket by Glanville started the stint and Schmidt finished it with six straight points, and the Pacers had a 35-25 lead at halftime.
Lakeridge actually got outscored in the third quarter, although it was only by one point. The one positive was that the Pacers still played strong defense in the quarter, which prevented Putnam from digging very far into the lead.
Schmidt helped keep things going by scoring her team's last five points of the third quarter and the first two in the fourth. She wound up as Lakeridge's leading scorer with 22 points. By the time she drilled a three-pointer for her last points of the game, Lakeridge had a comfortable 53-36 lead with 5:33 left to play.
Glanville also had a strong game with 12 points, and Ross took advantage of a limited number of opportunities to score eight points. Plus, Bird did a solid job of running the team from the point while scoring six points.