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Lakers fall to No. 1 Pioneers, top West Linn

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Nick Halberg drives past Oregon City’s Sam Schafer during last week’s 63-40 loss to the Pioneers. The Lakers rebounded with a win over West Linn.

It certainly wasn't their best week of the season but the Lake Oswego boys basketball team did what it needed to do in order to keep itself in good position in the Three Rivers League.

The Lakers suffered their first loss in league play to No. 1 Oregon City last Friday but rebounded with a scrappy victory on the road against West Linn on Tuesday to stay tied with Clackamas for second place.

Lake Oswego held its own with the top-ranked Pioneers for a half, trailing by just a point heading into the third quarter but Oregon City executed its offense almost flawlessly down the stretch to pull away in a game that was closer than the final 63-40 score.

In both games, the Lakers made a conscious effort to slow the pace of the game, show patience on offense and look for the best possible shot.

And the strategy worked early on against the Pioneers. Oregon City struggled to get into a rhythm and the Lakers did well at getting back in transition.

'They like to get out and go and we wanted to shorten the game. The pace was ours in the first half,' coach Mark Shoff said.

Brad Tinsley knocked down a deep three-pointer for his first basket of the game, giving Oregon City an early 7-4 lead but Elliot Babcock-Krenk and Catlin Blyth each had a pair of buckets to keep the Lakers within a point through eight minutes.

Lake Oswego continued to exert its game plan on the Pioneers in the second quarter. Two hoops by Babcock-Krenk gave the Lakers a lead and Tinsley was resigned to taking contested jump shots. The guard missed all five shots he attempted in the second quarter.

But Oregon City held a significant rebounding edge in the period as Sam Schafer made his presence known in the paint. The Pioneers led by four late in the half but a three-pointer from Babcock-Krenk moments before the buzzer cut into that deficit.

Oregon City made sure that momentum wouldn't carry into the third quarter however. The Pioneers opened the half on a 10-2 run, hitting the first five shots they attempted.

'We came out and missed a few shots and they hit theirs. If we hit one or two shots early in the half we're right in the game,' Shoff said.

Babcock-Krenk continued to provide the bulk of Lake Oswego's offense hitting three shots and scoring six of this team's eight points in the quarter.

Oregon City built a seven-point lead late in the stanza and, on a desperation half-court shot from Tinsley at the buzzer, Lake Oswego was whistled for a tough foul call and the senior hit all three free throw attempts to dishearten the Lakers.

The Pioneers continued their hot shooting in the fourth quarter as they were able to utilize their quick transition game to convert lay-ups. In the second half, Oregon City's starters hit 13 of 16 shots.

'We lost focus. One of the things you can't do against Oregon City is trot back on defense,' Shoff said.

Meanwhile, Lake Oswego struggled from long range as it tried to get back in the game with three-pointers. Lake Oswego only had seven points in the final quarter and 15 points in the second half as the Pioneers ran away with the game.

'What's disappointing is that I don't think they're 23 points better than us,' Shoff said.

On Tuesday, the Lakers found themselves locked in another close battle, this time with West Linn but it was Lake Oswego that was able to pull away after halftime en route to a 59-53 victory.

It wasn't the Lakers' best effort, however as the team was dominated on the boards and made some key mistakes down the stretch to keep the Lions in the game.

In the end, a heroic performance by Babcock-Krenk propelled Lake Oswego to the important victory.

Babcock-Krenk had 16 points in the fourth quarter and 24 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. And this was after spending the entire second quarter on the bench in foul trouble.

The senior knocked down open jump shots all night and hit six clutch free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

'We needed the win and we got it. It wasn't pretty but I give Elliot a lot of credit for hitting some big-time shots for us,' Shoff said.

Once again, Lake Oswego started the game by chewing up the clock on offense while looking for open shots.

Blyth and Babcock-Krenk each had three-pointers and Lake Oswego played solid defense early on as the team took a 12-9 lead after the first quarter.

West Linn started to control the paint in the second quarter as they garnered a number of offensive rebounds but the Lions' struggled shooting the ball.

Lake Oswego only knocked down two field goal in the second quarter but they were both three-pointers from Nick Halberg and the Lakers kept their three-point advantage heading into the half.

Lake Oswego benefited from some sloppy play by the Lions in the third quarter and quickly jumped out to an eight-point lead. But West Linn worked the ball to its big men inside and cut that deficit to a single point.

Babcock-Krenk hit all three of his shot attempts in the quarter but the turning point in the game happened late in the quarter.

With a one-point lead, guard Marcus Anthony drove toward the basket, drew contact and hit a shot, resulting in a three-point play.

Moments later, after Lake Oswego committed a turnover, the Lions were whistled for a technical foul, giving the Lakers a pair of free throws and the ball back and Lake Oswego held a 37-31 lead with one quarter to play.

To open the fourth quarter, Babcock-Krenk knocked down a pair of open three-pointers to up the lead to 10. West Linn got the lead down to five points on two different occasions as Lake Oswego missed four free throws in the period and struggled on the boards but the team was able to keep the Lions at arm's length thanks to the clutch play of Babcock-Krenk.

'We made some poor plays down the stretch and allowed them to hang around. That's when you want to be playing your best and we got a little careless,' Shoff said.

The Lakers will take on Clackamas in a battle for second place this Friday.