When Mark Shoff put together his brutal preseason schedule, the coach figured his Lake Oswego boys basketball team would be fortunate to win half of its non-league games.
Well, after last Saturday's impressive 61-53 victory over Mater Dei (Calif.) and a 34-point win over Redmond on Tuesday, the Lakers finished their non-league schedule with an 11-1 mark.
Saturday's victory, which came on Mater Dei's home court and before a regional television audience, might have been Lake Oswego's most impressive win of the season. Coming into the contest, USA Today had Mater Dei ranked No. 1 on the West Coast and No. 6 in the nation.
The Monarchs probably have more depth than the Lakers, and they boast two bona fide Division I prospects in Taylor King, who's headed to Duke, and Kamyron Brown, who's headed to Oregon. What the Monarchs didn't have, though, was an answer to Lake Oswego's 6-foot-10 All-American center Kevin Love.
Love was his typical self, scoring a game-high 36 points while grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking four shots. He was so dominating inside that Lake Oswego threw him the ball almost every time down the floor. He finished the game with 14 close-range baskets, including three dunks.
As dominant as Love was, the game was still a virtual toss-up when Lake Oswego held a 33-32 lead midway through the third quarter. But then the Lakers went on a 20-6 run to remove all doubt about the final outcome. The run started with two layups by Elliot Babcock-Krenk, then 12 straight points by Love, followed by Kyle Lavender's three-pointer and a free throw by Landon Ainge.
Love's last basket in that run gave him his scoring total for the night. By then, he had out-scored his teammates 36-13. It was hardly a one-man show, though, as Love's teammates played with possibly their most intensity of the season. Babcock-Krenk had an all-around game with eight points and some stellar defense. Lavender was also big off the bench with a pair of three-pointers, and Ainge and Ernie Spada did a superb job of handling the pressure from Mater Dei's full-court press.
Lake Oswego tuned up for the Mater Dei contest by ripping league rival Clackamas 70-38 last Thursday. Love had such an easy time that he conceivably could have scored 60 points if the outcome had ever been in doubt.
Instead, Love wound up scoring 44 points on 12 of 17 shooting from the field and an amazing 18-for-18 effort from the foul line.
Two nights before, in a game against West Linn, the Lakers had to look for other options because the Lions used a gimmick defense that kept the ball out of Love's hands. But the Cavs opted for a more conventional defense and seldom used anything more than a double team against the big guy.
Love took advantage by personally out-scoring the Cavs in the every period except the last one and Clackamas only won that duel by a single point.
'You pick your poison,' Shoff said after the game. 'If you want to leave our guys open (on the outside) we have guys that can shoot. But, if you want to take (Love) one-on-one, he's going to have a big night on you.'
After one period, Lake Oswego led 15-6. Love had nine of the Lakers' points and Spada had the other six on a pair of three-pointers. In the second period, Spada scored again but Love had the Lakers' other 15 points in the stanza as Lake Oswego jumped to a 32-18 lead.
Love hit from everywhere in that period, including the three-point line. But the fans loved his two dunks the most, especially the one-handed slam on an ally-oop pass from Lavender. In the third quarter, Love had a trio of three-point plays while he out-scored the Cavs 13-12.
Love finished with just 12 rebounds, which is four below his season average. But he also contributed four assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Spada, who finished with 14 points, was the only other Lake Oswego player besides Love to score in double figures. He wound up with four three-pointers.
Amazingly, Love did all of his damage against the Cavs despite being sick most of the day.
'He was just sicker than a dog (on Thursday) at school,' Shoff said. 'I told him, 'when you're sick, sometimes that's when you have your best game.'
'He was very focused and very relaxed out there,' the coach continued. 'But what he did was very impressive for a guy who was sick.'
After beating Clackamas, the Laker players presented Shoff a plaque that commemorated his 200th career coaching win, which came in last Tuesday's game against West Linn. With everything the Lakers have achieved during the last two years, Shoff's milestone victory almost went unnoticed.
'Well, I've been fortunate over the years to have some pretty good kids,' Shoff said. 'But when you get that many wins, all it shows is that you've been here for a while. And this is my 12th season here.'