If there was one game where the Lakeridge boys basketball team couldn't afford to be short-handed, it was Tuesday's contest against West Linn. At the midway point of the season, Lakeridge coach Dave Nuss figured his team would have to finish 4-2 to have a chance at the playoffs.
And with highly-ranked Lake Oswego and Oregon City in the league, games against every other opponent loom large.
So when the Pacers' leading scorer and rebounder, Graham Moredock, was unable to play on Tuesday because of the flu, it put Lakeridge in a bind.
'That's a big blow. Graham's been playing well and is averaging about 18 points and nine rebounds for us,' Pacer coach Dave Nuss said.
The Pacers found themselves undersized all night. That, coupled with some very cold shooting, left Lakeridge with a 65-52 loss and an even bleaker shot at the playoffs.
Even playing with a modified line-up, the Pacers weren't out of the game until the closing minutes. In the first quarter, the Lions dominated the paint but some good passing led to some easy buckets.
Kenan Ozgur provided an early spark for Lakeridge, pulling down three rebounds and scoring on a put-back against much taller opponents.
In the second quarter, both teams struggled to score, particularly from the outside. Remarkably, the teams combined to shoot a paltry 1 for 27 from three-point range with Lakeridge going 0 for 17 on the night from that distance.
'I thought the kids played hard, we simply didn't make enough shots. We shot 31 percent for the game,' Nuss said.
West Linn's Justin Monahan wreaked havoc in the paint, pulling down seven rebounds by himself in the second quarter but the Pacers hung tough with six players scoring in the period.
Lakeridge trailed by six points at the half and was then knocked back on its heels as the Lions came out of the locker room and scored six straight points.
Joe Cramer responded for the Pacers, playing stingy defense and scoring back-to-back hoops for his team to shift the momentum.
'Joe really had some nice plays for us and worked hard all game. He had a couple of calls go against him which was tough,' Nuss said.
But Cramer soon picked up his fourth foul and spent the rest of the quarter on the bench. The entire Lakeridge team did a much better job on the boards in the third quarter and, as a result, the team mounted a run.
After trailing by as many as 13 points, Lakeridge quickly managed to cut the lead to six and regained possession with seconds remaining in the stanza.
With just a few ticks left, Tyler Larsen drove and banked in a short shot to make the score 41-37 with one period to play.
Early in the fourth quarter, Brian Luevano knocked down a jump shot and was fouled. He converted the three-point play but West Linn responded with a basket of its own.
Lakeridge had multiple opportunities to cut into the deficit down the stretch but missed a number of opportunities from close range, which cost the team dearly.
'It's tough to come back when nothing's falling for you,' Nuss said.
The Lions regained their rebounding edge in the final quarter and their advantage inside eventually allowed them to pull away.
Cramer and post Andrew Mertz each fouled out within minutes of each other and West Linn was able to seal the victory at the foul line as Monahan knocked down 7 of 10 attempts.
Luevano led all scorers in the game with 16 points.
The loss kept Lakeridge in fifth place and Nuss knows that the team will virtually need to win the remainder of its games to qualify for the playoffs. Next up for the Pacers is today's game against Oregon City.
'We know that, mathematically we're not out of it yet. We've played everybody in our league tough for stretches, it's just a matter of putting together a complete game,' Nuss said.