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Sheldon almost succeeds at keeping ball away from Love

Lake Oswego pulls out a win as center becomes Oregon's all-time career scoring leader
by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego's Kevin Love becomes the state's all-time scoring leader with this basket five minutes into the first quarter as the Lakers pull off a 28-25 win over Sheldon in Friday afternoon's 6A state semi-final game in Eugene.

EUGENE - It wasn't pretty. In fact, it looked downright ugly at times, but the Lake Oswego boys basketball team got the only result that mattered, which was a 28-25 victory in Friday's state semifinal game against Sheldon.

A lot of teams have tried to slow down Lake Oswego's high-powered offense this season but no one had done it successfully until the Irish nearly pulled it off on Friday.

'(Sheldon coach Ron Lampe) followed the rules … . If you have good enough ball-handlers, just like they do, and then if they hit some shots, which they did, they stay in the game,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said.

Sheldon's objective was to keep the ball out of Kevin Love's hands as much as possible and the Irish accomplished that, limiting the All-American center to three shots. Love had to make all three of those attempts and hit three of five free throws just to score nine points for the game. That was 16 points below his previous low total of the season.

'I don't care if I scored one point. I don't care if I scored zero points as long as we won,' Love said after the game.

By holding onto the ball for long stretches, Sheldon held the Lakers to just 19 shots for the game (they made 10 of them) and only four for the entire second half.

With the possessions few and far behind, Love wound up scoring the decisive basket of the contest with five minutes remaining. It came after Love stole a pass near mid-court and dribbled the distance for a lay-in. He was also fouled on the play and made the free throw to give the Lakers a three-point cushion.

The Irish never did score in the final period, but Sheldon's Brent McKee had two chances in the final 35 seconds to tie the game with a three-pointer. Both times, though, he was just off the mark, including a desperation attempt from the corner that rimmed in and out just before the final buzzer sounded.

'Sheldon probably doesn't have as much firepower as we do,' Love said. 'But they played a great game …. But you just wished they had a shot clock in those kind of games.'

Sheldon used a triangle-and-two defense, with the one defender in front and another one behind Love. Several teams have employed the same strategy against Lake Oswego this season, but the Lakers usually won these games by wide margins because they were able to get big, early leads, and then their opponent would be forced to change its strategy.

But the Lakers couldn't shake the Irish in the early going. Their biggest lead in the first half came when Ernie Spada hit a three-pointer to put Lake Oswego in front 14-9 late in the first quarter. But Sheldon center Blake Poole closed that gap to 14-12 when he hit a three-pointer just before the quarter ended.

Poole wound up as the game's leading scorer with 12 points, on a 5-for-10 shooting effort. He had six rebounds, which equaled Love's total.

After a moderate pace in the opening period, the game slowed down considerably midway through the second stanza when Sheldon opted to hold the ball for almost the remainder of the half. Lake Oswego was nursing an 18-16 lead at the break.

The lead 'swelled' to 22-16 when Love hit a pair of free throws approximately two minutes into the third quarter. It looked like the lead would grow even bigger, but Love got called for an offensive foul to stem Lake Oswego's momentum.

'If Kevin doesn't get called for that offensive foul, suddenly we break loose,' Shoff said.

Instead, Sheldon rallied behind two baskets by Poole and a three-pointer and a lay-up by McKee to tie the game 25-all at the end of the third.

Then, after Love scored what turned out to be the game's final basket with five minutes remaining, the Lakers gave the Irish some of their own medicine by stalling for a long stretch in the final minutes.

Almost lost in the bizarre events of Friday's game was the fact Love became Oregon's all-time career leader. His rebound basket at the 2:57 mark of the first period moved Love past Knappa's Bob 'Pudgy' Hunt, who established the mark in 1957.

Elliot Babcock-Krenk wound up being Lake Oswego's top scorer with 10 points. All but two of those points came in the first half. Spada finished with nine points, all on three-pointers.