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Pacer boys wrap up preseason vs. states top team

by: MATTHEW     SHERMAN Lakeridge’s Tom Knecht tries to get off a shot against a Grant defender in last week’s loss to the Generals. The Pacers then took on top-ranked Jesuit on Tuesday, mounting a late comeback but ultimately falling to the Crusaders. Lakeridge begins league play this Friday against West Linn.

The Lakeridge boys basketball team took on two of the better teams in the state leading up to its league opener on Friday.

The Pacers fell to Grant and Jesuit but know that, on a given night, the team can compete with anyone.

"We've been in so many close games this year. I don't think there's anyone that we simply can't play with," coach Dane Walker said.

Last week Lakeridge ran into an inspired Grant team and the Generals picked the Pacers' defense apart in a 79-61 win.

In the first half, the Pacers were sloppy with the basketball but hung with the fast-paced Generals by executing well on offense.

Both teams flew up and down the court and the Pacers were always able to come up with a big shot when Grant threatened to blow the game open.

"We can score points. That's never been an issue for us this year. Our issue is with turnovers and on defense," Walker said.

Lakeridge wasn't able to right the ship in the second half and Grant tightened the screws defensively.

The Generals had a healthy advantage rebounding and continued to come up with steals on defense to set up their transition game.

"Give Grant credit. They came out ready to play and they just took it to us," Walker said.

Lakeridge got strong play all night from Brandon Loiler who led the team with 25 points and some hot shooting from Michael Walker but never threatened Grant's lead in the second half.

The Pacers would suffer a setback in a later practice when Loiler went down with an injury.

He would miss the Jesuit game and his future status is still yet to be determined.

But, even without Loiler, Lakeridge held its own against No. 1 Jesuit on Tuesday.

The Pacers fell behind early but clawed their way back against the Crusaders, cutting the lead to seven points midway through the fourth quarter before Jesuit salted the game away.

Jesuit put Lakeridge in an early hole, building a quick double-digit lead in the opening quarter.

But the Pacers stopped the bleeding soon after and hung with the Crusaders for much of the game.

Lakeridge got nice contributions from point guard Justin Luevano and Blake Dutton, who each poured in 13 points.

The Pacers started to make their move late in the third quarter and continued it into the fourth, getting the lead into single digits before Jesuit finally pulled away.

Madison Pihl added 10 points to the effort for Lakeridge.

The Pacers now gear up for their league opener at home on Friday against a West Linn team that narrowly beat them earlier in the year in the finals of the Lakeside Classic.

"Obviously we'd like to play well in league but, honestly, with the way things are structured it's just another game and we'll try to keep improving and building. It's just the details that are hurting us right now," Walker said.

Lakeridge will play the Lions in the second game of a doubleheader on Friday.




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