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Lakeridge girls could force playoff

and MATTHEW SHERMAN

The Lakeridge girls basketball team has a lot riding on tonight's league finale at Clackamas.

The Pacers find themselves one game behind Clackamas and West Linn, who are tied for the third and fourth spots in the Three Rivers League with 6-5 records. Lakeridge is one game back at 5-6. If the Pacers win tonight and if West Linn loses at Lake Oswego, it would then leave Lakeridge, Clackamas and West Linn in a three-way tie.

In that clase, a coin flip would be held to determine which team finishes third, and then the other two teams would play off for the final spot on Saturday.

It would be a great accomplishment for the Pacers if they manage to secure one of those final two playoff spots. After struggling through the first half of the league season, the Pacers appeared to be in jeopardy of eliminating themselves from the playoff race. But a victory over West Linn three weeks ago put Lakeridge back in contention.

'I knew this would be a tough year ... but give credit to our kids for not giving up,' Lakeridge coach Mike Melin said as his troops prepared for tonight's game with Clackamas.

'Now we're playing our most consistent basketball of the season,' the coach added.

The Pacers stayed in the hunt when they scored a much-expected 62-35 victory over Milwaukie on Tuesday.

Lakeridge had a bit of a slow start but still led 10-7 after one period. The Pacers then put the game away with a whopping 26-7 advantage in the second quarter and an 18-5 cushion in the third period.

The victory was so easy that Melin was able to give playing time to 18 girls, including several from the junior varsity squad.

'It was a great night for our seniors (on senior night) and it was fun to play all of our JV kids,' Melin said.

Ten of those girls scored, led by Courtney Bird's season-high 13 points. Kiersten McNairy added nine points to the cause while Catherine Bergeron chipped in eight.

That victory helped the Pacers forget last Friday's 60-30 loss to cross-town rival Lake Oswego.

The Lakers used their superior size to outmuscle the Pacers on the boards and their stifling half-court defense yielded very few open shots for Lakeridge.

After a somewhat slow start in which the Pacers played even with second-ranked Lake Oswego, the Lakers pulled away in the second stanza. Lake Oswego held their opponents scoreless until the final seconds of the period and built a 10-point lead at the half.

Lakeridge's Kai Schmidt hit a three-pointer at the end of the second quarter to keep her team within striking distance. The hard-nosed defense continued after the break and the play of Ali Lomax epitomized Lake Oswego's effort. The senior tallied four steals in the third quarter.

The defensive specialist also had 12 points in the game to lead her team. The Lakers pushed the lead to 15 points entering the final quarter and then turned on the afterburners.

Meanwhile, to beat Clackamas, Melin said his team will have to limit the number of possessions the Cavs get on offense and the Pacers will have to be patient on offense.

The Pacers would have been in the driver's seat if they had been able to pull out a victory in overtime against the Cavs four weeks ago. Instead, the tables are turned in Clackamas' favor.