The Lakeridge boys basketball team has reached that point in its season where it could use some help from other teams in the Three Rivers League. Well, the Pacers almost got that help from Oregon City last Thursday, but Lakeridge couldn't take advantage of its opportunity.

The fourth-ranked Pioneers were out of sync for most of the first half, and Lakeridge easily could have taken a sizeable lead into the locker room at halftime. But the Pacers turned ice cold in the final four minutes of the second period and the drought continued until midway through the third period. That cold spell ended up being the difference in the game.

During that stretch, Lakeridge went from holding a 27-24 lead (following a three-pointer by Tyler Larsen) to trailing 43-30 at the mid-point of the third quarter. After that, the Pacers managed to cut their deficit to eight points once and to nine points on three occasions, but they never got any closer and Oregon City went on to claim a 74-60 victory.

Coming into the game, few people probably expected Lakeridge to give Oregon City much trouble, especially since the Pacers were without the services of their leading scorer, 6-foot-9 senior center Graham Moredock. But Moredock's absence didn't doom Lakeridge's chances. It only forced the Pacers to re-direct their focus to their perimeter game.

In the first half, the biggest contributors were Larsen with 11 points and Alex Gay with nine. At the same time, Oregon City's all-state guard, Brad Tinsley, was almost missing in action. He had just two points in the first quarter and none in the second.

Considering the way the two teams played for the opening 12 minutes, it seemed plausible that Lakeridge could pull off possibly the biggest upset of the season in the TRL. Maybe the Pacer players started thinking too much about that possibility. And before they knew it, Oregon City had wrestled away control of the game.

After turning in possibly his worst first half of the season, Tinsley proved to be almost unstoppable in the second half. The junior guard had 14 points in those two periods and he set up numerous other baskets for his teammates.

It seemed that every time Lakeridge threatened to claw its way back into the game, Tinsley had an answer.

The Pacers had to feel good about their chances after a mini run (which included five points by Joe Cramer) closed the deficit to 45-37 with three minutes left in the third quarter. And Tinsley answered with a three-pointer to quiet the Lakeridge crowd.

Then, when Lakeridge began over-playing Tinsley on the perimeter in the fourth quarter, he simply fed his teammates for easy inside baskets. Once the Pioneers got their game clicking, their lead never dropped below double digits and got as high as 15 points.

The seven three-pointers the Pacers hit in the second half (they also had seven in the first half) weren't enough to put a dent in the deficit.

Statistically, the difference in the game came at the foul line where Oregon City hit 23 of 26 attempts. Lakeridge had only four foul shots but even making all of them didn't help much.

With such a disparity in foul shots, some observers might say that the officials determined the outcome. But the Pacers, who spent most of the night bombing away from the three-point line, didn't give the officials many opportunities to blow their whistles.

After Tuesday's win over Putnam, the Pacers are now 3-6 in league play, which puts them two games behind Clackamas in the race for the TRL's final playoff berth. But time is running out to making up that difference. Heading into this weekend's action, only three games remained on Lakeridge's regular-season schedule.

Meanwhile, the Lake Oswego boys basketball team kept its undefeated league record intact with an easy 82-50 victory over Milwaukie on Tuesday.

Kevin Love led the way with a season-high 45 points as he inched closer to the state's all-time career scoring record. Love also had 18 rebounds and six assists. Ernie Spada added 13 points and eight assists for the winners. Plus, most of the players on the Lakers' roster wound up scoring.

'These are nice games because you can get everybody in,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said.

Next up on Lake Oswego's schedule will be Friday's contest against Lakeridge, then there's games next week against Oregon City and West Linn. Shoff expects his team to be playing close to its peak by then.

'I've been real pleased how our guys always come ready to play,' the coach said. 'Now it's time to gear up for the playoffs.'

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