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Pacers stalled by Lions

GIRLS BASKETBALL
by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Kirah Aldinger-Gibson, left, and Amanda Huck, right, fend off West Linn’s Emily Locke as the three players chase a loose ball during Three Rivers League action Tuesday night. West Linn stalled much of the fourth quarter en route to a 45-41 victory.

The fourth quarter turned into a battle of wills for the Lakeridge girls basketball team on Tuesday and, if a few bounces had gone the other way, the Pacers may have been able to come away with a dramatic victory over West Linn.

However, after outplaying the Lions in the opening half, a third-quarter rally and an extended stall did Lakeridge in as the Pacers suffered a 45-41 loss.

After trailing for most of the first half, the Lions mounted a spirited comeback to take a three-point lead heading into the final stanza. Then the Lions sat on the ball - almost literally.

West Linn gave up the lead early after a basket from Kiersten McNairy, but Nikki Aden answered with a three-pointer and then West Linn coach Glen Lee decided not to take any more chances.

After recording a stop on defense, Rosetta Adzasu took the ball past half-court and held it. And held it some more. Adzasu had the ball at her side, not even dribbling, for 45 seconds against Lakeridge's zone before someone came out to guard her and start a five-second count from the referee.

'They have some tremendously quick kids and one of the ways to negate that is to play a zone,' Pacer coach Mike Melin said.

The Lions held onto the ball for two and a half minutes before Adzasu was fouled. She knocked down both free throws. Lakeridge answered when Amanda Huck followed her own miss and scored but then the Lions played the waiting game again.

With just over a minute to play in the game, the Pacers upped their pressure and nearly forced a turnover on multiple occasions. West Linn got a number of breaks in the final 40 seconds of the game.

After Adzasu missed the front end of a one-and-one attempt, the ball went out of bounds off Lakeridge. Jennifer Kimbrow was then fouled and she hit one of two free throws, making it a two-possession game.

Lakeridge then turned the ball over on its final two possessions of the game as the Lions held on for the victory.

'I can't say I would do anything differently. Our hope was that they'd miss that key shot and we'd get the rebound and go down and tie it up,' Melin said.

Lakeridge held West Linn to 28.9 percent from the field and controlled the paint for the majority of the game. Huck was everywhere on the court, pulling down a number of big rebounds.

The difference was that the Lions only turned the ball over nine times all game and got to the foul line.

Lakeridge had the game going its way for much of the first half. Kai Schmidt was an early spark on offense, consistently beating her defender off the dribble. She had five points in the first quarter for the Pacers while Huck pulled down five rebounds in the opening stanza.

Meanwhile, the Lions struggled mightily from outside. Leading scorer Nikki Aden hit only one of 11 shots in the first half but still scored nine points after knocking down six of seven free throw attempts.

West Linn settled for jump shots as Lakeridge's zone defense worked to perfection. Huck continued to be a force on the boards while McNairy scored six points in the second quarter for the Pacers.

'I'm proud of our kids because they played so hard and there's going to be times where we're just going to have to out-work the teams we play,' Melin said.

With a two-point lead late in the half, Lakeridge's Kirah Aldinger Gibson hit a jump shot then recorded a steal and an assist on a pretty pass to McNairy at the buzzer to make the lead 29-23 at the break.

Emily Locke got the momentum shifting in West Linn's favor early in the third quarter. After the Lions were frustrated in the paint during the first half, Locke pulled down two offensive rebounds and put both of them back in for baskets.

Emily Wattman-Turner then hit a three-pointer as the Pacers turned the ball over three straight times down the court.

'I think the real key was the first six possessions for both teams in the third quarter. We came down and looked a little stale on offense,' Melin said.

A basket by Adzasu gave the Lions a 32-31 lead as West Linn opened on a 13-3 run. Wattman-Turner then came through with back-to-back three-pointers. She had 12 points in the game, all on shots from behind the arc.

That spurt gave West Linn its three-point lead, allowing the team to shorten the game in the fourth quarter and grind out a victory.

Huck led the Pacers with 10 points and 10 rebounds. McNairy also had 10 points.

Next up for the Pacers is a road game against Oregon City and Huck will not be available because of a death in her family.