Lake Oswego's Kevin Love seldom needs much reason to play well in big games, but in the first round of last week's state basketball tournament, he had multiple reasons to shine.
For starters, the all-star center was closing in on Bob 'Pudgy' Hunt's state all-time career scoring record. Since he trailed Hunt by only 43 points, everyone knew Love would claim that record at some point during the tournament. So, Love tried to end the suspense by breaking it in his first game of the tourney.
He wound up scoring 41 points, leaving him two shy of the career mark of 2,584 points, as Lake Oswego rolled to an easy 60-33 victory over Westview in Thursday's quarterfinals.
In addition, Love seemed to be motivated more than normal for a post-season game after reading comments earlier in the week where Westview's 6-foot-11 Andy Poling said he was anxious to play against Love and thought that the Wildcats had a good chance to knock off the defending state champions.
But Poling struggled, scoring just six points while grabbing two rebounds before fouling out late in the third quarter. The 6-10 Love, meanwhile, hit 11 of 16 shot attempts and canned 17 of 18 free throws. He also had 21 rebounds, including 10 at the offensive end.
'I think Andy Poling really called me out and he had six points and two rebounds,' Love noted. 'He can say whatever he wants, but they lost and that's the most trash I'm ever going to talk…
'Be careful what you wish for. That's what coach (Mark) Shoff said. You don't call us out and expect some big numbers to be put up (against us).'
Poling actually outplayed Love for the first two minutes of the game. During that stretch, Poling hit an outside jumper and a close-range jump hook, both just over the reach of a leaping Love.
However, after scoring the first two points of the game, Love tied Poling's early outpoint with a pair of free throws at the 5:36 mark of the first period. The Lakers' All-American center then followed with a three-pointer and a rebound basket, giving him nine points in the opening stanza as the Lakers jumped to a 16-8 lead.
Love then scored his team's final nine points of the first half. That included a fade-away three-pointer with two seconds left in the half, which put Lake Oswego in front 27-17 at the break. Shoff called that three a turning point in the game.
'One of the best plays of the game was (Love's) three at the end of the half,' Shoff said. 'Because (Westview) had just hit a three to pull within seven, and that was a huge shot (by Love).
Shoff thought that the officials had allowed Westview to push Love around too much in the first half with few of the alleged infractions being called fouls. In the second half, though, the officials began calling most of that contact, and both of the Wildcats' big men wound up fouling out in the process. Poling picked up all five of his fouls in the third quarter and 6-9 Trevor Siefken fouled out early in the fourth period.
Once Love got on a roll, he was virtually upstoppable. He scored 25 consecutive points during a span that stretched from early in the second quarter to late in the third period. As a result, Love scored Lake Oswego's first 16 points in the third stanza. He had all of Lake Oswego's points in that period until Tommy Allen scored on an assist from Love with 11 seconds left.
Surprisingly, Westview had decided to put pressure on Lake Oswego's guards rather than help Poling out with an extra defender against Love. That made it easier for the Laker guards to send entry passes into their big guy.
'Some teams try to throw a gimmick zone at us, where the guards get wide open shots,' noted Lakers guard Ernie Spada, who wound up being named to the all-tournament second team for the second year in a row.
'Today, they wanted to pressure the guards and let 'em bang with Kevin down low … Hey, anybody that wants to play Kevin one-on-one, we like to see that,' Spada added with a big grin.
Love wanted to stay in the game long enough to break the mark that Hunt set while playing at Knapp during the 1950s. He entered the final quarter with 34 points, leaving him nine shy of Hunt's mark. Love then scored seven points in the first three minutes of the fourth before Shoff pulled his star center from the game.
'We knew what he had, but we have three days (at the tournament) and that's what I told him,' Shoff said. 'It would have been nice to get it over with today but my two assistant coaches demanded that I take him out.'
'I was little bit disappointed,' Love said about being pulled from the game. 'But it's a team-first game, and that's the way I've always been. It would be wrong if I said anything else.'