by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Landon Ainge, left, keeps the ball just out of reach of a Oregon City defender during last Friday’s key TRL game. The Lakers won the game 72-50 to take sole possession of first place. Center Kevin Love led the way with 39 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter.

OREGON CITY - In a game that had major playoff implications, the Lake Oswego boys basketball team responded with one of its best efforts of the season in a 72-50 victory over Oregon City Friday night. The victory gave Lake Oswego sole possession of first place in the Three Rivers League.

Leading the way was Lake Oswego's 6-foot-10 center, Kevin Love, who scored 39 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. He hit 16 of 22 shots and seven of them came on dunks. Love also had 20 rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and two assists.

In typical Kevin Love fashion, he gave much of the credit for his success to his teammates.

'It was just because we played good team ball. Landon Ainge stepped up big time and Ernie (Spada) and Taylor (Marr) hit some bit shots,' Love said. 'The reason I scored so much was because I fed off what they did.'

Like other teams have done, Oregon City collapsed its defense around Love in order to limit his effectiveness. That strategy proved fruitful for about four minutes before Love began to dominate inside.

When Oregon City began to sag inside even more it opened the outside for Lake Oswego's guards and they bombed away most of the night. Spada, Marr and Ainge combined for 32 points, including 12 each by Spada and Ainge. All of Spada's points came on three-pointers while Marr added a pair of threes.

When you add it all up, the Lakers played like their season depended on them winning.

'There was a lot riding on this game with the second-place team (in the TRL) having to go to South Medford this year. So it was a big game, especially here,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said after the contest.

Many people expected this game to be close and for a while it looked like it would be. Midway through the second quarter, the Lakers led only 23-19. Love had 10 of those points. But Oregon City guard Brad Tinsley was just as productive, scoring nine of his team's first 19 points.

Lake Oswego then went a 9-3 run late in the second period and claimed a 34-25 lead at intermission.

The Lakers really began to assert themselves early in the second half, which started with a dunk by Love and a mid-range jumper by Ainge. The host Pioneers responded when Sam Schafer hit a difficult fade-away shot over Love and Tinsley followed with a twisting drive around Love to cut the deficit to 41-29. But Oregon City wouldn't get any closer the rest of the night.

Spada then hit a three-pointer and Marr added another one a short time later, but the margin slipped back to 12 (at 49-37) after Tinsley hit two difficult shots late in the third period.

'Tinsley is great,' Love said. 'You can't really stop him on penetration, he's so good … Then he would go between the legs a couple of times and pull up and hit the three,' Love said.

The rest of the game belonged almost solely to Love. Oregon City was forced to play man-to-man much of the final quarter because of Lake Oswego's outside shooting in the earlier periods, and that made it easy for Love to maneuver inside.

He scored his team's first 13 points in the period and all of them, except for one free throw, came from no more than a foot from the basket. That effort included an emphatic two-handed dunk where Love had to soar over two defenders to complete the play. He followed a short time with another dunk that made the score 62-38.

The teams then traded baskets the rest of the way, and Love scored his team's last eight points, including three more dunks. He wound up scoring all but two of his team's points in the final period.

Love's monster game overshadowed a superb effort by Tinsley, who hit 10 of 18 shots for 24 points. The Pioneers also got 14 points from center Jared Cunningham, who transferred from Lake Oswego to Oregon City during the off-season.

The Lakers followed the Oregon City victory an easy 88-53 win over West Linn on Tuesday. Love scored 27 points to eclipse Salim Stoudamire's state 4A career scoring record. But Love's points didn't come easy, at least not at first.

West Linn opted to double team the big guy and had the rest of its defenders sag into the key to keep Love from getting the ball. The strategy worked for a while as Love had just one point in the first quarter and only five by halftime.

But the 6-10 center broke out in a big way in the third quarter when he moved out to the perimeter and scored 14 points. During that quarter, he had two three-pointers, a conventional three-point play, a dunk and three free throws when he was fouled on a three-point shot.

Most of the rest of the game belonged to Lake Oswego's outside shooters, especially Marr, who had a career-high 22 points, including five three-pointers. The Lions let Lake Oswego's guards shoot as much as they wanted, and Marr decided to take advantage.

'It's hard to play when you're that wide open,' Marr said. 'You're not used to being that wide open, especially when you're a decent shooter … It's a lot weirder than just shooting in a game by yourself.'

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