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Pacers make it look easy against HRV

Lakeridge dominates all phases of the game en route to 18-0 win over Hood River in the state quarterfinals
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge’s Joe Cramer prepares to unleash a long shot that resulted in the Pacers’ first goal in last Thursday’s quarterfinal playoff game against Hood River. The Pacers wound up winning the game 18-0 and advanced to a quarterfinal showdown against Lincoln. A victory there would move Lakeridge to the championship game for the fourth year in a row. The Pacers won the last two titles, both against Oregon Episcopal School.

For about three-quarters of last Thursday's third-round playoff game, the Lakeridge boys lacrosse team looked like a college team against an out-gunned Hood River squad.

Then, once the game was no longer in doubt, the Pacers just played keep-away while trying not to rub it in too much en route to an easy 18-0 victory.

That lopsided win moved the Pacers onto the state semifinals once again. Next in line for Lakeridge was Wednesday's game against Lincoln. With a victory in that contest, which was held after this week's deadline, the Pacers would advance to the state championship game for the fourth year in a row.

The Pacers won the last two state titles, both times in closely-contested games against Oregon Episcopal School. After the way Lakeridge played in last week's preliminary rounds, a third consecutive championship seemed like a very real possibility.

Hood River entered last Friday's quarterfinal game with a considerable amount of confidence after the Eagles squeaked past a peaky Liberty squad two days before. But it was a big step up to the level Lakeridge has been playing at lately.

The Hood River defense did frustrate the Pacers for first three-and-a-half minutes of the contest. The Pacers maintained possession that entire time, but they couldn't find the goal on their first four shot attempts. However, two of those attempts required excellent saves by the Hood River goalkeeper.

Then, senior midfielder Joe Cramer finally broke the mini drought when he rifled a 25-yard shot from the point past everyone and into the back of the net.

After that goal there was no stopping the Pacers, who broke down Hood River's defense time and time again with a precision passing game that made it seem the Eagles were always playing one man short.

By the end of the first quarter, Lakeridge led 4-0 on goals from Cramer, Danny Purcell, Max Schlesinger and Andrew Clayton. By halftime, the margin was 10-0 after a goal by Clayton, then two in a row by Purcell and three more by Clayton.

At the break, which came none too soon for the Eagles, the only question seemed to be whether Lakeridge would play Lincoln or Sheldon in the semis. It was obvious that Hood River didn't have the firepower to make up a 10-goal deficit against the Pacers.

Lakeridge's effort in the first half was so impressive that was hard to imagine that the Pacers could play any better.

'It was impressive,' Lakeridge coach Curt Sheinin said after the game. 'I think we carried on from the Roseburg game (which the Pacers won 19-0) … I'll tell you, the kids brought it again.'

It was more of the same in the second half, although the Pacers seemed more worried about taking time off the clock. Still, there was plenty of time in the third period for Clayton to add another goal; then, Purcell got three in a row and Schlesinger finished the period with a tally that made it 15-0.

And the Pacers scored every way conceivable. There were times when they put together enough passes to send Hood River's defenders spinning around in a daze. Then there was Lakeridge's stand-by play where an attackman stands behind the net and hits a teammate cutting to the goal. For good measure, the Pacers added four or five goals where the offensive player decided to do it all by himself.

By the time the smoke had cleared, Purcell had a team-high six goals while Clayton had five tallies. And Schlesinger and Cramer each scored twice. Clayton was the top assist man with four helpers while Purcell and Cramer had three assists each. By the end, it was hard to determine which one of them deserved the game ball.

Clayton certainly would have been a good choice.

'I'll tell you, Andrew can score from just about anywhere,' Sheinin said. 'He knows exactly where he's supposed to be. He knows what he can do and he goes out and does it.'

Clayton believes a lot of his success was due in big part to the unselfish play of his teammates.

'It's really nice when everyone on the team can pass and catch so well,' Clayton said. 'So, you can rely on your teammates to make that extra pass so (someone) can get the open look.'

Purcell, Schlesinger and Cramer all would have been good choices for that game ball as well. Plus, Corey Rosenfeld did a nice job of filling in for an injured Brett Klitz in the midfield.

'What can you say about these kids. They just keep coming,' Sheinin said. 'I think we're ready to step it up for the semis.'

Once again, Lakeridge's superb offensive showing almost overshadowed a fine game turned in by the Pacers' defense. It helped that Lakeridge held possession of the ball for a large percentage of the game, which limited how hard the Pacers defense had to play.

But when Hood River did have the ball, it was not an easy chore getting a shot off. And on the rare occasion when a shot attempt made it past the defensive line, goalie Cooper Robbins was there to stonewall the effort. In the process, the Pacers wound up with their fourth consecutive shutout.

How much longer can they continue to blank teams?

Doing it in the Final Four 'would be very difficult,' Sheinin said. 'But I wouldn't say that we don't want to do that. We'd love to, but we're playing against some teams that can really score.'

In the meantime, the Pacers are trying to keep alive a winning streak against Oregon teams that dates back to the 2004 championship game when the Pacers lost to OES. No one really wants to talk much about the streak at this point, but no one wants it to end, either.

'You definitely don't want to be the guys who lose that first game,' Clayton said. 'As long as we keep pushing ourselves to be better, I think we can keep it up.'

One of the keys to Lakeridge's success this season has been the team's ability to spread the wealth on offense. It keeps the opposition from focusing its attention on any one player.

Heading into the Final Four, Clayton was the team's leading scorer for the season with 63 goals. He also had a team-high 32 assists. But not far behind is Schlesinger with 54 goals and 20 assists. Then, Purcell had 41 goals and 28 assists; and Cramer had 39 goals and 26 assists.