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State Championships go south

Lake Oswego's dreams of a repeat state championship are thwarted as South Medford registers a 58-54 victory behind the three-point shooting of Michael Harthun
by: Vern Uyetake, The Lakers’ Kevin Love battles South Medford’s Kyle Singler for a rebound.

Two years ago, many people felt the Lake Oswego boys basketball team got robbed in the state championship game against Jesuit. This year, though, the Lakers lost the title game to a South Medford team that simply played a little better.

Last Saturday's 58-54 loss ended an incredible run that included three consecutive title game appearances for the Lakers. Unfortunately, Lake Oswego won only one of those games - last year's 59-57 victory over South Medford. But the Lakers certainly didn't have anything to be ashamed of after last Saturday's effort.

'I told our guys I couldn't be any more proud,' Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff said after the game. '(South Medford) earned the victory. But if we played this team 10 times, I think we could beat them five times. I think it showed we're every bit as good.'

In the end, though, it turned out to be South Medford's turn for revenge. But it wasn't Kyle Singler, the Panthers' All-American forward, who made the difference. Instead, South Medford's go-to guy wound up being junior guard Michael Harthun, who turned in an incredible shooting display while scoring 24 points.

Rather than playing the starring role for the Panthers, Singler found himself in foul trouble for a large portion of the game and also was held in check offensively by Lake Oswego's All-American center senior, Kevin Love. So Harthun picked up the slack by hitting 8 of 13 shots, including a 5-for-5 effort from the three-point line, and he did it with six stitches in his shooting hand.

'He really is a player in big games,' South Medford coach Dennis Murphy said of Harthun. 'I know he was embarrassed by what happened (when he cut his hand while slapping a mirror earlier in the week), and he wanted to prove to people what a quality player he is…. He makes some shots where you just go, 'wow.' It's like a shot to the heart.'

Some of Harthun's shots almost bordered on being ill-advised, including a couple that were taken from well behind the three-point line and another that he hit while falling sideways. And he hit those shots with at least one defender, usually Landon Ainge, draped all over him.

'It wasn't that he was open,' Shoff said of Harthun. 'He stuck shots with guys right on him. He's a great player.'

'He's kind of tough to defend,' Ainge said after chasing Harthun all over the floor. 'We knew he was the kind of shooter who was either on or off, and he was on tonight.'

'He was unconscious,' Love said of Harthun. 'I don't know what it is but that guy must have something against us.'

Harthun also proved to be the difference when South Medford beat Lake Oswego in the Les Schwab tournament during the Christmas break.

In the championship game, the Panthers (26-3) held the lead for the final 11:37 of the contest and led by as many as eight points, but they had trouble shaking the Lakers (26-2), who were paced by Love's 37 points and 15 rebounds.

Love was so strong inside that Singler often had to let the Lakers' big guy score or risk fouling out of the game early.

'When I had the ball against (Singler), I pretty much proved I could score at will,' Love said.

The Panthers, who won their first-ever state title, took the lead for good when Singler hit a three-pointer to make it 34-31 with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Harthun then started wielding his dagger when he scored South Medford's next eight points, a burst that included a three-pointer and a trio of free throws when he was fouled on a three-pointer late in the third period.

Love was able to stem the tide for awhile for the Lakers by scoring all 14 of his team's points in the third stanza. That was part of a run where Love had 24 consecutive points for the Lakers. He later hit a lay-up to trim Lake Oswego's deficit to 47-45 with 4:42 left in the contest.

Then Singler came to life after missing the early part of the fourth quarter when he picked up his fourth foul. When he returned to the game, the Duke-bound star drew a quick foul on Love and hit both free throws.

'When we sat (Singler) out, we managed to hold on. And then when he came back, we managed to take control,' Murphy said.

Then, on South Medford's next possession, Singler appeared to travel on a penetration move. Instead, Love was whistled for his fourth foul of the game and Singler canned two more foul shots to give South Medford a 51-45 lead.

'That was terrible but I'm not going to dwell on that,' Love said.

Lake Oswego managed to cut the margin to 55-53 when Love hit a lay-up with 53 seconds left, but the Panthers iced the state title with three free throws from Singler and two by Van Dellenback-Ouellette.

Singler finished the game with 18 points but made only 3 of 9 shots from the field. However, he did hit 11 of 13 free throws.

'You know, Kyle's low game of the season going into this game was 16, and that was against us the last time (at the Les Schwab tournament),' Shoff noted. 'I thought Kevin did a great job on him.'

'I had to step up and play defense and show everybody that I can play defense,' Love said of his effort against Singler.

The difference might have been the fact that South Medford went 8 of 9 from the three-point line while Lake Oswego hit only 3 of 13 from the arc. 'And we lose by four points,' Shoff lamented.

'That was the difference maker,' Love said in agreement.

Love, meanwhile, was 14 of 20 from field and 9 of 10 from line. As a team, the Lakers made 19 of 39 field-goal attempts and 13 of 16 foul shots.

'I wish we would have hit a couple more free throws and contained Harthun a little more,' Love said. 'But that's just how it is sometimes.'

Of course, the Lakers had envisioned three straight titles with Love leading the way. But claiming just one crown was hardly a disappointment.

'One for three isn't bad,' Love said. 'We got a chance to cut the nets down last year.'

The hardest thing for Love to accept was the fact that he wouldn't get to wear his Lake Oswego uniform again.

'This is the last time I'll wear this jersey. I really don't want to take it off,' he said.

However, that jersey was completely soaked in sweat, just like it always was, so it's probably good that he eventually washed it.

'Yeah, probably so,' Love said while cracking his infectious smile.