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LO girls advance at state, barely

Lakers dig themselves an early hole but pull out of it and beat Sheldon by eight to move into Friday's semifinal round
by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Ali Lomax scores from close range to give Lake Oswego the lead for good at 31-29 with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s state quarterfinal game against Sheldon. Despite a slow start, Lake Oswego rallied for a 40-32 victory, moving the Lakers into Friday’s semifinal game.

It wasn't pretty, but considering how things went for Lake Oswego in its state quarterfinal match-up against Sheldon, the Lakers will definitely take a 40-32 victory.

Heading into the game, it was a near certainty that Lake Oswego would be able to keep the Irish in check on offense. The only question was how would the Lakers' offense respond?

The answer was anything but resounding. Lake Oswego shot 30 percent for the game, missing an uncharacteristic number of shots from close range and trailed by eight points early in the third quarter before upping their pressure and pulling away with just minutes to play in the game.

But there were some very nervous moments throughout the contest and, for a brief moment, it appeared that Lake Oswego would be upended in a fairly sizeable upset.

The Lakers were impressive early on, keeping Sheldon's post, Theresa Brown off the board. The Irish star struggled to get off an uncontested shot, thanks mainly to the defense of Emily Hatch.

But Lake Oswego struggled on offense as well. The game's first points came nearly midway through the opening quarter when Avery Lee knocked down a three-pointer.

The Irish responded by scoring the game's next seven points, and a turnover with two seconds to play in the quarter led to another Sheldon basket, giving the Irish a 9-5 lead after eight minutes.

Turnovers plagued Lake Oswego for the entire first half. The Lakers turned the ball over 12 times in that stretch.

Sheldon's Kendra Little took her team's offense on her shoulders, scoring nine of her team's 10 second-quarter points.

Margaret Johnson scored twice from inside for the Lakers in the quarter but the team still had trouble getting into any sort of rhythm.

'We had a tough time taking the lid off the basket but I'm glad we were able to persevere,' Lake Oswego coach Jason Fawcett said.

As a result, Lake Oswego trailed by four points (19-15) heading into the locker room at halftime.

Sheldon scored the first four points of the third quarter to take its biggest lead of the game at 23-15. To make matters worse, Ali Lomax picked up her fourth foul.

The Irish continued to force the ball into Brown, who converted two hoops but the Lakers slowly started to cut into the lead.

A steal and lay-up on the other end of the court by Jill Shoquist cut the lead to 25-23 and, moments later, Shannon Reader knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game.

The run rattled the Irish who committed a number of turnovers and only scored six points in the quarter, all by Brown.

Still, the game remained tied at 25 heading into the final period.

Although Lake Oswego seemed to have all of the momentum, Sheldon scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, all on free throws by Brown.

Again, the Lakers ratcheted up their defense to mount another comeback. A driving lay-up by Becky Luetjen and a 10-foot jump shot by Lomax tied the game once again.

'I think we started to match their aggressiveness. We had been a little tentative but once we attacked the rim a little better I think that helped,' Fawcett said.

Then, with just under three minutes to play in the game, Lomax scored on a drive and was fouled, giving Lake Oswego its first lead (at 31-29) since the game's opening minutes.

Lomax missed her free throw but Hatch hauled in the rebound and scored a lay-up, upping the lead to 33-29.

Moments later, Sheldon turned the ball over yet again. Even with the lead, the Lakers kept up their intense pressure and Sheldon buckled.

Lake Oswego only hit five of its 11 free throw attempts in the final quarter, giving the Irish life, but a late steal and basket by Johnson sealed the game.

'We have a lot of confidence in each other and it shows in tight games. The more tight games you play, the more comfortable you are in them,' Fawcett said.

The Lakers' next game will be on Friday at 3:15 p.m.