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Lakeridge eyes future, ends year with win over McKay

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge’s Ben Nelson keeps the ball away from Clackamas defenders in last week’s game. Nelson had nine points in the contest.

It's been a trying season for the Lakeridge boys basketball team to say the least. The Pacers finished the year a disappointing 1-11 in league but that doesn't really tell the entire story.

Lakeridge lost five league contests by four points or less and, when you look at the standings, the Pacers would only have needed a different outcome in three of those games to be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

This has been one of the more bizarre years in recent memory in the Three Rivers League.

For the third year in a row the league features a team that has consistently been ranked No. 1 in the state but, after the Pioneers, every other team, on any given night, could come away with a victory over any other opponent.

That was evident in the fact that, at various points in the season, Lakeridge hung with second-place Lake Oswego until the game's final possession, Milwaukie was within a point of both Lake Oswego and Clackamas in the fourth quarter of a pair of games and Putnam gave Oregon City its biggest league scare of the year in a close 71-67 loss.

'We looked back at the season and there were a handful of game that we lost by just a few points. Talking to the other coaches in the league we were laughing because it seemed like almost every game was decided by single digits,' coach Dave Nuss said last week after the Lake Oswego game.

Having already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Pacers struggled in their final league game of the year, losing 66-46 to a determined Clackamas team.

Lakeridge played the Cavaliers even in the first quarter and ended up tied 11-11 after the opening eight minutes but a disastrous two-quarter stretch did the team in.

Clackamas, which possesses one of the better shooting teams in the state, took it to the Pacers in the second quarter, outscoring the visitors 25-7 to take a commanding lead into halftime.

The Cavaliers didn't let up coming out of the locker room and only gave up six points in the third quarter.

As a result, Lakeridge trailed 55-24 with one quarter to play.

The Pacers cut into that deficit in the final stanza, scoring nearly as many points in the fourth quarter as they had in the previous three.

No one reached double figures for Lakeridge as juniors Ben Nelson and Trevan Hertz each led the team with nine points.

However, in the team's final game of the year, a non-league match-up against McKay, the Pacers were able to rebound and end the year on a very positive note.

Earlier in the year, Lakeridge fell to the Royal Scots by 21 points but, this time around, it was a much different story.

The Pacers rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit, storming back for a 64-56 victory.

The Hoch brothers were on display on Tuesday with junior Chris Hoch tying for a team-high 15 points along with senior Josh Little.

Freshman Michael Hoch, who has been one of the team's biggest bright spots this year, was equally impressive with 12 points.

The brothers will be features prominently on Lakeridge's team next year.

'The future looks pretty good for us. We definitely like the guys we have coming back,' Nuss said.

Down 32-25 at the half, the Pacers dominated the third quarter, outscoring McKay 22-9 in the period to take control of the contest. And Lakeridge didn't back down after seizing momentum.

The Pacers were able to put the game away with a solid final stanza.

Lakeridge will graduate six seniors from this year's squad but the majority of the teams in the league are also losing top contributors. That could potentially make for another wide open and unpredictable year in what has traditionally been one of the most competitive leagues in the state.