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Lakers come up 90 seconds short

by: Vern Uyetake, Becky Luetjen comes up with a steal in the second half of last week’s opening round playoff game against Reynolds. Luetjen would score a lay-up on the other end. She had a game-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds and she also keyed a pair of Lake Oswego runs which kept the team in the game.

You can never truly define an entire game by one play. But when the fortunes of both teams are dramatically altered in one instant late in a contest, it's difficult not to dwell on what might have been.

In the opening round of the playoffs, the Lake Oswego girls played far from their best basketball. The team turned the ball over 30 times and was playing catch-up for virtually the entire first half.

But the Lakers were also resilient, rallying back from a pair of nine-point deficits. They also held a lead midway through the fourth quarter.

But the team's hopes of a road win over a ranked opponent were all but erased with 90 seconds to play in the game. Trailing by three, Lake Oswego worked the ball into senior post Shannon Reader. Reader had been draped by defenders all evening but got good positioning on this play.

She turned and knocked in a lay-up off the glass as a whistle blew. It appeared that Lake Oswego was one free throw away from tying the Raiders and setting up a thrilling final minute.

However, much to the chagrin of the Lake Oswego coaches, players and fans, Reader was whistled for an offensive foul, negating the basket and giving Reynolds the ball back.

'I think the officiating hurt us at critical times. That's unfortunate but we missed some free throws and missed some lay-ups. I'm not going to say it cost us the game but it hurt us,' coach Paula Pietrok said.

After a flagrant foul on the Lakers, Reynolds knocked down its free throws and clinched a 50-40 victory.

It was a brutally tough way to lose a game and it left the bulk of the Lakers in tears afterwards.

Lake Oswego was in danger of being blown out of the game on multiple occasions in the first half. The Raiders' two quick guards wreaked havoc on the Lakers in the early-going, forcing eight first-quarter turnovers.

Renee Tzeo consistently drove into the lane to set up her shooters and Shawnelle Campbell knocked down a pair of three-pointers as Reynolds took a 13-4 lead. Pietrok then took a time-out in an attempt to right the ship.

'I said 'let's take a deep breath, we're fine.' We also went to man (defense) which helped us out,' Pietrok said.

The time-out worked as the Lakers responded with a 9-0 run to close the quarter. Senior Becky Luetjen provided the bulk of the scoring in the first quarter, hitting four of five shots. Meanwhile, Reader pulled down four rebounds in the quarter to keep Reynolds' second-chance opportunities at a minimum.

With the score tied to start the second quarter, the Raiders came out hot again and went on a 9-0 run of their own to regain momentum.

But Lake Oswego refused to panic. Luetjen had five rebounds in the quarter and Miranda Babcock-Krenk scored a pair of baskets and Lake Oswego responded with a 7-1 run to end the half.

The Lakers had to feel happy to only be down by three points after turning the ball over 17 times in the first two quarters. The bulk of Lake Oswego's turnovers did not come as a direct result of Reynolds' intense press.

The Lakers have dealt with pressure in the back court all season and actually did an admirable job amidst pressure last week. It was unforced errors, many coming on errant passes that did Lake Oswego in.

Lake Oswego was determined not to let the Raiders start another quarter on a big run. Instead, the Lakers quickly tied the game and began the half on an 11-2 spurt of their own.

Once again Luetjen was the catalyst. The Lakers took their first lead of the game midway through the quarter and after a steal and a lay-up from Luetjen, Lake Oswego led by as much as six points. The senior had 11 points in the quarter.

'Our seniors have a lot of pride and they battled all night long,' Pietrok said.

Reynolds also found itself in foul trouble, giving the Lakers an advantage down the stretch. But, with the game starting to turn in Lake Oswego's favor, Campbell hit an enormous three-pointer for the Raiders to get the crowd back in the game.

The Lakers got sloppy late in the quarter and a three-pointer by Kelsey O'Neil tied the score. Luetjen scored a hoop late in the period to give the Lakers the lead with one quarter to play.

The game went back and forth with two quick lead changes in the opening minutes. Turnovers started to hinder the Lakers again and despite being in the bonus for the entire period, Lake Oswego was only awarded four free throws in the quarter.

Lake Oswego only converted one field goal in the quarter, an early hoop from Luetjen and have just five points in the final eight minutes.

The Lakers also turned the ball over eight times in the quarter compared to just one turnover by the Raiders.

'It was the unforced errors that caused us to end up on the wrong end in this game,' Pietrok said.

With a one-point lead, Reynolds' start, Tzeo, went down with a seemingly serious leg injury but she returned less than a minute later.

The Raiders appeared content to hold onto the ball and force the Lakers to commit a foul.

However, with a minute and a half to play, Rachel Scarpelli drove and put up an ill-advised running floater that dropped, making the score 43-40.

Reynolds did not have a particularly stellar shooting night but it had a penchant for draining important shots at key moments.

Moments later Reader's controversial foul was called. Reynolds hit nine of 11 free throws in the quarter to seal the win.

It was a turbulent season for Lake Oswego as, with a new coach and a completely revamped starting line-up, the team had to endure one of the most challenging preseason schedules in the state.

And, this year three Three Rivers League teams were consistently ranked in the top 10. But Lake Oswego showed dramatic improvement over the winter, culminating in a playoff berth.

The team will only lose two seniors this year, however those seniors, Luetjen and Reader, provided the bulk of Lake Oswego's scoring and rebounding and were each first-team all-league selections.