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LO girls share No. 1 spot in statewide poll

Lake Oswego coach Jason Fawcett was having a good day on Friday until somebody had to mention the possibility that his girls basketball team would soon be ranked No. 1 in the state.

It was the last thing Fawcett wanted to talk about, especially since he's done a good job this season of getting his players to ignore such matters. All he's concerned with is winning games, and the Lakers have been doing a pretty good job of that this season.

In fact, the Lakers haven't lost since a three-point setback against Tualatin in the first round of the Interstate Shootout in late December. The Lakers kept their roll going by beating a pesky Clackamas team 61-51 last Friday.

That victory, coupled with a 10-point win over Oregon City the week before, helped catapult the Lakers into a tie for the top ranking in the state in the latest Associated Press poll. Also sharing the top spot is Central Catholic, which won the Interstate Shootout.

When you're the top team in the state, or close to it, everyone starts gunning for you. That made last Friday's game particularly scary since the Cavs were on a hot streak of their own coming into the contest. Clackamas fully expected to keep its run going with an upset win over Lake Oswego.

But, just like when the teams met in early January, this contest nearly turned into a blowout in the first half. The Lakers led 16-6 after one period, thanks to five first-quarter points by Jill Shoquist and four by Margaret Johnson. It was more of the same in the second period, which saw Shoquist score another four points while Becky Luetjen scored seven of her game total of nine.

In many ways, it was a typical offensive half for the Lakers. But holding the normally high-scoring Cavs to just 12 first-half points had to be the most impressive highlight of the night for Lake Oswego.

The only drawback in the first half was Lake Oswego's ability to accumulate foul calls. Johnson, Emily Hatch, Avery Lee and Ali Lomax all found themselves in early foul trouble.

'It's tough after the (previous) two games, where they let us be real physical… Then tonight, we had to adjust (to tighter calls),' Fawcett said.

Lake Oswego then complicated matters somewhat by kicking the ball around against Clackamas' full-court press in the third quarter. That turned what should have been a blowout into an interesting game. The Lakers managed just four baskets in that period - a pair of layups by Hatch and one three-pointer each by Lomax and Lee.

By the end of the third, Clackamas had cut Lake Oswego's once comfortable lead to a 39-29 margin. That comeback helped bring Clackamas' boisterous crowd more into play.

'That's the best crowd that we've seen for a road game all year,' Fawcett said. 'For some of the kids, that played a little bit of role (in the third quarter) … That's good, because we need that before we head over to Oregon City (later this month).'

It took only a couple of minor adjustments for Lake Oswego to solve Clackamas' press in the fourth quarter. The Lakers seemed to be at their best in that situation when they found Johnson releasing down the left sideline or Shoquist down the right sideline. Then, it was off to the races.

'Once we got everyone on the same page, then we were OK,' Fawcett said.

The Lakers managed to maintain an eight to 10-point lead through most of the final period, but things got really interesting when Clackamas' Becky Buhler hit a three-pointer to trim Lake Oswego's lead to 53-48 with 2:28 left in the contest. But Lake Oswego scored just enough down the stretch to keep Clackamas from completing the comeback.

'We know what we need to do, we just didn't hit a high percentage in doing that tonight,' the coach said. 'It's not like we were trying to do something that we haven't done before.'

The victory kept Lake Oswego (7-0 TRL, 17-2 overall) as the only undefeated team in the Three Rivers League. Now, the Lakers also have to defend their No. 1 ranking in the state, even though it's of minimal concern to the players.

'I've never heard anybody mention it,' Fawcett said. 'That's stuff that we can't control … It's nice for parents to talk about, but we really don't worry about it.'