Emily Hatch nabs 19 points and 16 rebounds for Lakers

LAKE OSWEGO - The road to the Three Rivers League girls basketball title now goes through Lake Oswego. The Lakers moved into sole possession of first place on Friday after emerging from an intense battle with second-ranked Oregon City with a 66-56 victory.

In a game that didn't see either team take more than a two possession lead until the final minutes, fourth-ranked Lake Oswego knocked down 22 of 24 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Pioneers. Emily Hatch and Margaret Johnson, the Lakers' two posts, combined to hit all 14 of their free throws during that stretch to lift their team to its biggest win of the season.

"It's nice to get an opportunity to play a great team like this that's going to challenge you. Oregon City played a great game. They played hard for all 32 minutes out there," Laker coach Jason Fawcett said.

Up until the final two minutes of the game, the largest lead either team could muster was five points and the majority of the first half saw Lake Oswego leading by just one basket.

Hatch scored the Lakers' first seven points of the game but Oregon City's press proved difficult to break early on. The Pioneers forced 11 first quarter turnovers and Stephanie Buhler knocked down two jump shots but Lake Oswego led 13-12 after the first period.

Early in the second quarter, Lake Oswego's turnover woes continued but their saving grace all game long was their work on the boards. Lake Oswego out-rebounded Oregon City 14-2 in the second quarter but could still only up their lead by one point at the break.

"Emily Hatch was amazing on the boards tonight. She's relentless in the paint and that just breeds to everyone else," Fawcett said.

Oregon City shot the ball well for much of the first half but its leading scorer, Kelly Marchant, was kept scoreless thanks to the relentless defense of Ali Lomax.

"Kelly's a great player and she's a tough match-up. Ali worked her tail off chasing her around," Fawcett said.

Much like they did in an earlier game against West Linn, the Pioneers came out of the locker room with renewed energy and made a point of getting Marchant the ball. Marchant scored her first points on a pair of free throws two minutes into the third quarter.

She later hit a pair of three-pointers to key an 8-0 Oregon City run and the Pioneers led 38-36 with eight minutes to play in the game.

Oregon City clung to its slim lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter but eased up on its press, virtually allowing Lake Oswego a free trip across half court. The Pioneers missed a handful of shots from close range and the Lakers continued to pound the glass. Lake Oswego out-rebounded Oregon City 13-2 in the fourth quarter and Hatch and Johnson pulled down six a piece in the period.

Johnson hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 42-42 and Hatch then scored on three straight trips down the floor to give her team a 48-44 lead. From there, Lake Oswego tightened its defense even more and hit a score of clutch free throws, eventually taking a nine-point lead before Buhler banked in another three-point shot. But the Lakers simply couldn't miss from the foul line. Marchant fouled out with just minutes to play and ended the night with 10 points.

"We shoot a lot of free throws in practice after running and after they're tired. They're comfortable and they're confident. You have to give them a lot of credit," Fawcett said.

After committing 17 turnovers in the first half, Lake Oswego only tallied seven for the remainder of the game. On the night, Hatch had 19 points and 16 rebounds and Johnson had 10 points and 10 boards. Paige Halberg led Oregon City with 12 points and five assists.

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