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Changing of guard for Pacers

The Lakeridge boys basketball team is a little thin when it comes to previous varsity experience.

Josh Little and Tyler Larsen are the only players on the roster who saw significant playing time on last year's team. So, coach Dave Nuss has spent a lot of time in preseason practice getting the other players prepared for a new experience.

'We're still learning,' Nuss said after his team lost to Sunset and Beaverton in Monday's jamboree. 'We've got some juniors that are getting their first varsity experience, so they've got to grow … and (most of) the seniors are coming back with little or no varsity experience.'

That lack of experience, coupled with the fact that no one on the roster is taller than 6-foot-4, and the Pacers seemingly have their work cut out for them this year.

That was the case when the Pacers faced Sunset, a legitimate top-10 team, on Monday. The Apollos appeared to be in mid-season form while the Pacers were still getting used to playing together.

'We looked like deer (caught) in the headlights,' Nuss said. '(The Pacers) knew about some of their players and I think they played scared.'

Fortunately, the lopsided loss in that 12-minute quarter won't be part of Lakeridge's season record. But, at the same time, it was good for the Pacers to see the improvement that is needed in order to play at a high level.

'That's what a jamboree is about,' Nuss said. 'You practice for three weeks, and then you get out on the road against another team and gage where you're at.

'I'd say we did some OK things. I wouldn't say (they were) exceptionally great things, and there were a lot of things that we need to work on,' the coach added.

After a humbling showing against Sunset, Lakeridge looked immensely better against Beaverton. Still, the Pacers had to overcome a slow start against the Beavers and that was enough to prevent Lakeridge from winning the quarter.

Larsen nearly turned the period around by himself. He hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut an eight-point deficit to two. Then, he nearly hit a third attempt that would have given Lakeridge the lead. Later, point guard Taylor Thompson converted a driving layup that kept the Pacers within a basket of the lead.

During that flurry, Lakeridge showed the potential of being a formidable opponent in the TRL this season.

'We hit some shots and got some turnovers off our press … So we did some good things, but we still have a long ways to go,' Nuss said.

In the period against Sunset, Nuss called time out after his seeing his troops cast off unsuccessfully a number of times from perimeter. Nuss wanted his players to be more selective about the shots they were taking. But after the time out, the players continued to fire blanks from the three-point line.

'So, I had a little talk with those guys,' the coach said. 'They need to learn to play the way we want them to play.'

Once everyone gets on the same page, most of the Pacers' success will come from teamwork and playing with intensity. Plus, Nuss plans to pressure opponents with an assortment of presses.

'With the kind of presses we have, I think we have enough athletes that can create some turnovers,' the coach said.

'We kind of saw that in the Beaverton quarter … When we get guys flying around and playing the way they're supposed to play, we can create some turnovers and those turnovers will lead to easy baskets,' Nuss added.

A number of people outside the Lakeridge camp are predicting that this will be a rebuilding year for the Pacers, but Nuss believes his team has a realistic chance to make the playoffs.

'I think you always have to set your sights on the playoffs,' the coach said. 'If you don't (do that), then why play the games? … (Plus), everyone has a chance in the beginning.'

Lakeridge would probably be one of the leading contenders if 6-8 Graham Moredock hadn't graduated last spring. He gave the Pacers an inside presence that the team doesn't have this season.

'In the half-court, we may struggle to score, because we don't have a guy like Graham Moredock this year,' Nuss said. 'He's a tough guy to replace, because you could count on him getting eight to 10 rebounds and 15 to 20 points a night.'

So, the loss of Moredock's production will have to be made up by players like Little and Larsen, both of whom are capable of averaging in double figures.

Nuss will also count on players like Ian Maurer, a 6-3 senior post; Trevan Hertz, a 6-foot junior guard; Ben Nelson, a 6-2 junior wing; Chris Hoch, 6-3 junior forward; and James Higgins, a 6-4 junior post.

The roster also includes Thompson, Scott Kibler and Jeff Simon - all senior point guards. Plus, there's Austin Wippert (a senior wing), Robert Breedlove (junior post) and Jimmy Turnbull (junior wing).

There might not be any well-known names in that group, but Nuss will have all of them playing hard by the time the TRL season starts in January.

'The preseason is going to be really important for us,' Nuss said. 'We've got to make some strides and show some improvement.'