After winning in Red Bluff, the team goes 1-3 at Liberty

by: JON HOUSE - Lake Oswego's Canaan Sellers looks to drive in the Lakers' opening round game of the Les Schwab Invitational against Jefferson. The Lake Oswego boys basketball team continues to take on all comers this year and has shown that, on its best day, it can hang with some of the top competition in the state.

On the heels of its victory in the annual Red Bluff Tournament, which featured a thrilling 66-65 victory in the championship game, the Lakers came up against their first real adversity of the season in the Les Schwab Invitational, dropping their first three games of the tournament before rallying to top South Eugene in their finale.

The Lakers' most impressive performance of the tournament came in their opening game when they took defending 5A champion Jefferson to the wire.

Jefferson already has a road win against top-ranked West Linn this season, but Lake Oswego proved it could hold its own against the potent Democrats.

The game was a highly anticipated showdown between two of the state's best point guards in Lake Oswego's Jazz Johnson and Jefferson's Silas Melson.

The showdown lived up to the hype too. Melson had the early advantage, recording two quick steals, getting his team out to a quick 14-3 lead.

Jefferson would lead 20-11 after the first quarter, and the lead would swell to 15 in the second period before the Lakers started to rally.

Johnson and Canaan Sellers fueled the comeback, and the Lakers' aggressiveness rebounding was a huge factor in keeping the team in the game.

Lake Oswego trailed by nine at the break but continued to stay within an arm's length of Jefferson. An 8-0 run to close the quarter, highlighted by a three-point play and a 3-pointer from Mitchell Verburg, suddenly made it 51-49 with just eight minutes to go.

The fourth quarter was wildly entertaining with both teams trading baskets. Johnson kept the Lakers in the game on offense, knocking down a barrage of jumpers, but the Lakers could never get over the hump and take the lead.

A 3-pointer from Sellers made it 62-60 with 15 seconds left, but the Democrats knocked down key free throws. Johnson buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds, but Jefferson did just enough to hold on for the 65-63 win.

In consolation, Lake Oswego went up against Grant, a team that figures to be in contention for the 6A state title this year.

Like the Jefferson game, Lake Oswego dug itself an early hole, allowing the Generals to close the first quarter on a 12-1 run.

Grant would lead 38-22 at the half but had no answer for Johnson on defense. Johnson would go off for 35 points, and he pulled the Lakers to within seven points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers did well to foul out Grant star Deondre Bird and made it interesting in the final period, but the deficit was too much to overcome in a 66-60 defeat.

Against Sunset, Lake Oswego held a lead into the fourth quarter but was outscored 22-5 in the final eight minutes as it suffered its third straight loss.

The Lakers finally got back in the win column Monday, using a big second quarter to knock off South Eugene 73-58.

Another 35 points from Johnson and double figures from Kendall Kitzinger and Verburg helped key the offense.

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