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Lakeridge boys nearing must-win time

It seems as though it's too early in the season to be talking about must-win games, but the Lakeridge boys basketball team is rapidly approaching that situation.

Such a discussion might have been unnecessary if Lakeridge had beaten Clackamas on Tuesday, but the Pacers wound up losing the contest 55-39.

Lakeridge and Clackamas found themselves in identical positions coming into the game. Both teams were 2-3 in league play, which had them tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Three Rivers League. Before the game, Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss expressed to his players the importance of winning that game. Apparently, the Clackamas coach gave the same pre-game speech to his team.

Now, Clackamas has a one-game lead in the race for that final spot. Lakeridge, meanwhile, will have to go 4-2 in the second half of the league season just to force a playoff game for the final spot.

'I thought we were ready to go,' Nuss said of his team. 'But I guess (Clackamas) wanted it more.'

The Pacers (2-4, 8-9) hurt themselves with turnovers while Clackamas did a good job of taking care of the ball, Nuss said. The biggest factor, though, might have been Clackamas' ability to hold Lakeridge center Graham Moredock scoreless in the first and fourth quarters.

'Going in, I thought defense was going to rule the day and it turned out to be true,' Nuss said.

While Moredock went scoreless in the first period, the rest of the Pacers struggled to pick up the slack. In fact, the Pacers managed just six points in the first stanza. That's the same number of points that Clackamas reserve Craig Seiler scored in the opening frame.

Seiler poured in eight more points in the second period with most of his points coming from jumpers around the free-throw line.

'We just didn't get up and contest him,' Nuss said of Seiler, who finished the night with a game-high 20 points.

But Moredock, who is Lakeridge's leading scorer for the season, also came alive in the second period. Yet, the Cavs still held a 13-point lead at halftime.

Then, things nearly got out of hand when Clackamas scored the first seven points of the third quarter, which pushed the Cavs' lead to 20. Lakeridge eventually trimmed its deficit to 12 by the end of the period. But the Pacers couldn't sustain the comeback. In fact, they even lost a little ground in the final quarter.

'Clackamas came out and played hard all night,' Nuss said. 'We had some guys playing hard, but not all five of them.'

Despite going scoreless for half of the game, Moredock still wound up as Lakeridge's leading scorer with 13 points. Joe Cramer added 10 points for the Pacers.

Moredock also led Lakeridge in scoring on Saturday when the Pacers registered a 68-56 victory in a makeup game against Putnam. Brian Luevano added 13 points to Lakeridge's cause while Cramer chipped in 10. The Pacers also got seven points by Tyler Larsen and six from Andrew Mertz.

Nuss figures he'll need a balanced scoring effort every night in order for his team to make a run at the playoffs.

'Early on, I thought we had the potential to be a better team than last year's group (which made the playoffs),' the coach said.

'The goal is still there and nobody has taken that away,' Nuss said. 'But the road just got a lot tougher.'