It could have been the defining game of the season. Instead, the Lake Oswego girls basketball team will have to think about what could have been after losing a heartbreaking 51-50 decision to West Linn Tuesday night.
It was a game in which the momentum shifted back and forth numerous times through most of the first three quarters. During that time, neither team held more than a six-point lead.
Then, West Linn seemed to be on the verge of putting the contest away after a 12-point run that stretched two minutes into the fourth quarter. Instead of folding, Lake Oswego responded with some intense defensive pressure that turned the game around.
The Lakers eventually found themselves with a chance to win the game with a final shot. But the incredible turnaround was thwarted when West Linn's defense stiffened at the end.
'I told them, 'just remember what got you in the hole and also remember how you battled back,' ' Pietrok told her team after the game. 'Those were the two lessons we learned today.'
Most non-partisan observers probably figured West Linn was heavily favored to win this game.
And it would have been hard to argue with such a claim since West Linn has been ranked in the state's top 10 most of the season. Lake Oswego, on the other hand, started the season slowly and is still trying to get its overall season record back to the .500 mark.
But Lake Oswego played the Lions evenly almost the entire way. However, things took a turn for the worse late in the third quarter when West Linn started a 12-0 run that threatened to put the game away.
'Basically, we stopped defending is what got us in trouble,' Pietrok said.
The Lakers responded by tightening up their defense, especially with their full-court press. The turnaround gained momentum when Becky Luetjen scored on a lay-up at the 3:04 mark and Kate Childs followed a short time later with a medium-range jumper to cut West Linn's lead to 48-41.
After a free throw by West Linn's Emily Wattman-Turner, Childs hit a three-pointer to cut West Linn's lead to five. After a turnover by the Lions, Lake Oswego's Lisa Blakely banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key to trim the deficit to 49-47 with 1:11 left.
Whatever Pietrok was telling her team during that comeback, it was working to perfection.
'On defense, I was preaching that 'you've got to move your feet and make a stop each time.' And then, 'when you bring it (back) down, let's score,' ' Pietrok told her team.
It sounded incredibly simple, but it was working. And Lake Oswego was also getting some help from the Lions.
A case in point came on West Linn's next possession, when Wattman-Turner managed to get behind everyone on an inbounds play from mid-court.
She had what should have been a simple lay-up but missed the shot and Lake Oswego got the rebound.
Once again, the Lakers found Childs all alone on the weak side of the defense and she hit a short jumper to tie the game at 49 with 42 seconds left.
After a time out, West Linn did a nice job of working the ball inside but missed the shot. West Linn's Sam Dewart chased down the errant shot, but she found herself in an awkward position underneath the backboard.
She somehow managed to get a shot past the outstretched arms of Lake Oswego center Shannon Reader. The ball then went straight up, passing the top of the backboard on its upward path, and then fell through the basket on its downward flight.
'Any way we can get it in, I'll take it,' West Linn coach Glen Lee of the basket that gave his team a 51-49 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
With 16 seconds left, Luetjen was fouled on a scoring attempt from the middle of the key. She missed her first attempt but made her second foul shot to cut West Linn's lead to one.
Then, in an effort to run out the remaining time, West Linn point guard Rosetta Adzasu lost control of her dribble, which led to a jump ball with 11 seconds remaining. With the possession arrow pointing Lake Oswego's way, the Lakers had one last chance and this time it was for the win.
The Lakers spent most of the remaining time trying to get the ball inside to Reader and then to Luetjen. But the Lions fought hard to deny the entry pass and Blakely settled for a long jumper that refused to drop.
Luetjen wound up as Lake Oswego's leading scorer with 12 points while Childs added 11. Blakely finished with eight and Reader was limited to six points while being swarmed by West Linn's interior defense.
There were some who felt that West Linn got away with a lot of contact while trying to stop Reader's attempts to post up inside.
'Honestly, (the game) was poorly officiated,' Pietrok said. 'And it wasn't just for us…. It's nice to know that people have a lot of respect for Becky and Shannon, but they can't be mauled on the block.'
The loss to West Linn followed a humbling 59-30 setback at the hands of Oregon City last Friday. Lake Oswego out-scored the Pioneers in the first and last periods, but it was a different story in the middle two stanzas.
'We just stunk it up in the second and third quarters,' Pietrok said after seeing Oregon City register a whopping 43-8 scoring advantage in those two periods.