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JV player stars in LO varsity win

by: Miles Vance, 
Lake Oswego’s Catlin Blyth goes up for two of his team-high 17 points in last Thursday’s 55-42 victory over Jesuit. Blyth normally spends most of his time playing for Lake Oswego’s junior varsity team, but an injury to one of the Lakers’ regular players meant more playing time for Blyth, and he delivered with easily the best game of his career.

Lake Oswego's Catlin Blyth was just getting warmed up when he scored seven points while playing two quarters in last Thursday's junior varsity basketball game against Jesuit.

Blyth then donned his varsity uniform, just like he usually does as a 'swing player.' Only this time, Blyth didn't just sit and watch like he usually does during Lake Oswego's varsity games.

Because of the sprained ankle that backup point guard Marcus Anthony suffered during practice last week, Blyth was called on to play a significant role in the varsity game against Jesuit. And the junior guard made the most of his opportunity by scoring a team-high 17 points to lead the Lakers to an impressive 55-42 victory over the sixth-ranked Crusaders.

Typically, most swing players are too nervous to be much of a contributor when they play at the varsity level. Normally, they're called on just to help out when other players get into foul trouble. But Blyth looked like a steady veteran against the Crusaders as he hit an assortment of outside jumpers and driving layups.

A few days before the Jesuit game, Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff had a feeling Blyth was ready to step his game up to the next level.

'He's been playing really well with the JVs and I told him, 'I don't want you to get down … because you could be one injury away from playing (on the varsity.)'

'Shoot, I don't know if I ended up costing Marcus or not, but he went down the next practice. And Catlin went from a white jersey with the JVs to a blue jersey with the varsity.'

It's a safe bet that Jesuit's pre-game scouting report made no mention of Blyth. In fact, Jesuit had scouted the Lake Oswego-Westview game a week before and it was apparent that the Crusaders would need to focus most of their defensive attention on center Max Jacobsen and wing Elliot Babcock-Krenk. After all, they have been Lake Oswego's top two scorers in almost every game this season.

So, the game plan called for a double team, and sometimes even a triple team, every time Jacobsen touched the ball down low. And Babcock-Krenk wasn't allowed any breathing room when he received the ball on the perimeter.

When Blyth got the ball, the Jesuit coaches were probably telling their players, 'Oh, don't worry about him, he's not a threat.'

Well, sometimes, scouting reports are about as valuable as the paper they're written on.

Jesuit's game plan actually worked just the way it was intended in the first quarter. Jacobsen was clearly showing his frustration during those first eight minutes, and not just because he was having trouble finding room to maneuver inside. He was getting bumped every time he tried to shoot, but no fouls were being called.

'He was definitely (frustrated),' Shoff said of his junior center. 'He was getting fouled a lot early, but I thought the officiating overall was pretty good.'

Jacobsen did manage to score the first basket of the game; and Babcock-Krenk had the last bucket of the quarter. Sandwiched in between were a pair of baskets by forward Cody Randall. That was all the offense the Lakers could muster in that quarter, so they had to feel fortunate to be leading 8-7 heading into the second stanza.

Since high school players are allowed to play no more than five quarters in one night, Blyth had to sit out for one quarter of the varsity game. Shoff picked the first quarter, and not just for Blyth but also for swing players Billy Reader and Max Livingston.

Blyth didn't waste much time making an impact after entering the varsity game in the second quarter. Midway through the period he slipped past the defense and Babcock-Krenk hit his junior teammate for an easy layup. Blyth was also fouled on the play and he converted the free throw to give Lake Oswego a 13-9 lead. Blyth then finished off the first half with a fast break basket that gave the Lakers a 20-15 lead.

In the third quarter, the Lakers pushed their lead to 27-17 after consecutive baskets by Babcock-Krenk, Randall and Scott Leedy, who was also fouled and tacked on a free throw.

Then it was Babcock-Krenk's turn again. He canned a three-pointer, then Jacobsen followed with a short jumper and Babcock-Krenk added a long two-pointer. After a pair of free throws by Jesuit, Blyth drilled a three-pointer of his own and the Lakers were up 37-23.

Lake Oswego threatened to blow Jesuit off the floor with an early fourth-quarter run that included two points each by Blyth and Reader and four by Babcock-Krenk.

Jesuit managed to whittle its deficit to 11 points a short time later. But Blyth struck again, scoring a string of six points (including his second three-pointer) to give Lake Oswego an insurmountable 52-37 lead with 1:40 left to play.

Victories over Jesuit are rare for any team in the state, but that was barely mentioned in the post-game discussion with the coaches. A lot of the talk centered on Blyth, and why not?

'What a lift did he give us?' Shoff asked rhetorically.

Jesuit's coaching staff probably didn't know anything about him, but most of the Lakers' JV opponents were probably familiar with Blyth.

'Heck, he's been scoring 24 or 25 points a game for the JVs,' Shoff said.

'I told him, 'Just because you're playing varsity doesn't mean you're a passer. You have to look to shoot too,' ' the coach added.

Blyth's success made for a great story, but he obviously didn't win the game by himself. In fact, just about everyone played well for the Lakers.

Babcock-Krenk finished with 16 points in one of his best all-around performances of the season.

'He kind of got off to a slow start … but he played great in the second half,' Shoff said.

Jacobsen was held to eight points, but he did his job by pulling much of Jesuit's defense to his side of the key. And Randall had seven points while playing at his usual breakneck pace on defense and in the open court. Plus, Leedy had a solid game in a reserve role while scoring five points.

'(Jesuit's) match-up zone was really tough tonight,' Shoff said. 'So, I was really proud with the way all of our guys stepped up.

'… It wasn't like a fluke that we beat (Jesuit). Our guys played with the intensity that they needed in a big game.'