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Laker girls improve, but still lose

by: Miles Vance, Lake Oswego’s Becky Luetjen tries to slip a shot past the outstretched arm of Jesuit’s Elizabeth Brenner during last Thursday’s non-league game. Jesuit won the game 57-45. Luetjen had 11 points for the Lakers while Shannon Reader had a team-high 12.

Usually, there aren't too many good things that can be said about a 12-point loss. But last Thursday's 57-45 setback against Jesuit actually represented an improvement for the Lake Oswego girls basketball team.

Granted, the Lakers were slightly closer to winning their previous game - a 35-25 loss to Beaverton on Dec. 11. But Beaverton didn't play one of its better games that night and the Lakers could not have played much worse as they committed an astounding 44 turnovers.

The Lakers obviously had a lot of things to work on after that loss. So, it's good that they had a long layoff before the Jesuit game.

'During those nine days off, we did a lot of good things (in practice),' Lake Oswego coach Paula Pietrok said.

That diligent effort in practice translated into a solid showing for most of the game against Jesuit. In fact, the Lakers held the lead for a large part of the first quarter and the early stages of the second. Even after stumbling a bit in the middle two periods, the Lakers bounced back and outscored the Crusaders in the final stanza.

'If we had played that way against Beaverton, things would have been much different,' Pietrok said.

Compared to that Beaverton game, the Lakers turned in a better defensive effort against Jesuit, and Lake Oswego's ball-handlers showed almost exponential improvement in their ability to deal with the opponent's defensive pressure.

Plus, instead of trying to force the ball inside to their top two scorers - Shannon Reader and Becky Luetjen - the Lakers showed that other players can help carry the scoring load.

Reader still wound up being the team's leading scorer as she collected 12 points against the Crusaders; and Luetjen was second in line with 11. But they got some help from Miranda Babcock-Krenk, who contributed possibly her best game of the season with eight points, and Kate Childs also had a good performance with seven points.

The loss dropped Lake Oswego's season record to 2-4, which is almost hard to believe considering the success the program enjoyed during the previous 20 years or so. But the Lakers are fielding one of their youngest teams in a long time, so it's somewhat unfair to expect them to be playing at a high level right now.

Unfortunately, the Lakers inherited a brutally tough preseason schedule. But maybe that's not a bad thing.

'The better teams are showing us what our weaknesses are,' Pietrok said.

After working on those things in practice, the Lakers will be better prepared for future opponents. Fortunately, everyone has kept a good mental outlook through the team's rough start.

'I think they're very positive,' Pietrok said of her players. 'They're not giving up.'

In fact, the coach expects her team to be in the middle of the playoff chase once the league season starts.

'We're getting better with each game,' she said. 'By the time the (league) season rolls around, I think we'll have it all sorted out.'

The Lakers will cap their preseason with the annual Laker Interstate Shootout, which opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

For the first time in a long time, Jesuit has opted to play in a different tournament this year. Central Catholic, another regular participant, will also be a no-show. But there will be plenty of other tough teams on hand. Jefferson, the top-ranked 5A team, will be there. So will Tualatin (No. 6 in the 6A poll). Plus, No. 8 Sunset (Lake Oswego's first opponent), No. 9 Canby and No. 12 North Medford are all entered.