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LOs showdown with Tualatin turns into defensive struggle

by: Matt Sherman, 
Lake Oswego’s Shannon Reader, left, and Becky Luetjen, right, battle a Tualatin player for a loose ball during Tuesday’s non-league game, which the Timberwolves won.

Over the past few years, Lake Oswego and Tualatin's girls basketball teams have had some epic battles but very few of them could have been described as defensive struggles.

That's what happened on Tuesday, however, as the Lakers struggled in the second half en route to a 54-39 defeat. Both programs face similar situations this year, returning very few players from the previous season and trying to find an identity as a result.

For a while, it appeared that neither team would make it to 40 points. Turnovers plagued the Lakers for much of the evening while the Timberwolves found themselves in early foul trouble.

A pair of early three-pointers from Tualatin staked the Timberwolves to an early 8-2 lead but Lake Oswego responded quickly.

Shannon Reader converted a three-point play and Becky Luetjen added a basket to cut into the lead and the Lakers trailed 10-9 after the opening stanza.

'Becky and Shannon bring experience which helps us in the interior,' coach Paula Pietrok said.

Lake Oswego then continued its hot streak into the second quarter. Another hoop by Luetjen gave Lake Oswego its first lead of the game and Reader followed with a three-pointer, capping a 12-2 run to put the Lakers up 14-10.

To make things worse for Tualatin, the Timberwolves put Lake Oswego into the double bonus with over four minutes to play in the quarter.

But Lake Oswego would only add one more point for the remainder of the half. Reader controlled the boards in the first half but the Lakers started to get sloppy on offense.

Aside from the short spurt early in the second quarter, Lake Oswego struggled to get into a rhythm on offense all night. At one point late in the first half, the Lakers turned the ball over on six straight possessions.

'This team is young. Our perimeter kids are learning and that's what the preseason is for,' Pietrok said.

Lake Oswego also missed numerous opportunities close to the basket on shots that either rimmed out or were deflected by the Timberwolves.

As a result, Tualatin was able to regain the lead and closed the half on a 10-1 run of its own.

'We were missing a number of our lay-ups and they started hitting theirs and it really added up,' Pietrok said.

The Timberwolves continued to be the aggressors in the third quarter. Kate Childs provided virtually all of the offense for Lake Oswego in the period as she knocked down three jump shots, including a three-pointer.

But Tualatin was able to convert Laker turnovers into points and took a 33-24 lead into the final quarter.

Jump shots by Cali Reis and Childs plus a three-point play by Luetjen helped keep Lake Oswego in striking distance early in the fourth quarter but Tualatin's Danielle Rolsom put the nail in the coffin by nailing back-to-back three-pointers.

Janelle Cromie also started to shore up the rebounding problems for the Timberwolves.

Reader scored back-to-back baskets for Lake Oswego but it was too little too late as Tualatin ran away with the victory.

In the game, virtually the entire Lake Oswego roster saw significant minutes as Pietrok is still looking for good combinations early in the year.

'We have a few players who have just joined us. We're still trying to sort things out,' Pietrok said.

Reader had 12 points for Lake Oswego, Luetjen added 11 and Childs had nine.

The Lakers' loss comes on the heels of a difficult 56-30 defeat against Southridge. The defending state champions are the unanimous No. 1 team in the state again this year and the took a 28-13 halftime lead and never looked back.

Reader led Lake Oswego with 14 points and Luetjen added 11.