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Pioneers finish second in the Sandy Invitational Tournament

by: POST PHOTO: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON  - Sandy Pioneer Tyler McCrea finished with four points and two rebounds in an 80-57 loss to the Lakeridge Pacers in the final game of the Sandy Invitational Tournament.

There wasn’t much to worry about before facing Lakeridge. It was a sub-.500 team that went 3-7 in the Three Rivers League and ranked 29th in the state at the 6A level last season.

Even Sandy boys basketball coach Jason Maki thought they were nothing more than an average team compared to his other opponents this season.

And when the Pacers arrived for the Sandy Invitational Tournament last weekend, stepping off the bus was a player with a forgettable stature. He was new and didn’t seem to warrant a second thought. But by the time he stepped back on the bus, the Pioneers learned that Reggie Oliver had the ability to elevate Lakeridge.

From the arc, to the paint, to mid-range territory, the junior guard was a daunting and impossible task — just ask the senior who tried to guard him.

“We just couldn’t stop him,” Maki said.

Oliver, who transferred from Orlando, Fla., over the summer, officially arrived in Oregon by scoring 36 points in an 80-57 rout of the Pioneers in the final game of the Sandy Tournament last Saturday at Sandy High School.

“Every time we made a run and cut it to 14 or 15, then he would hit a three or get to the rim,” Maki said. “He was the difference.”

Whatever he wanted to do, he did.

Oliver, who stands 5-foot-11, had a gentle jump shot, but also could force his way through the paint and score over Sandy’s 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7 bodies.

Lakeridge rode Oliver to a ferocious start and a 28-7 first-quarter lead. Dominance continued through halftime, allowing Oliver to record 23 first-half points, which left everyone dumbfounded.

“(Lakeridge coach Dane) Walker was as surprised as the rest of us,” Maki said.

But when the ride was over and Sandy was forced to swallow a lopsided loss, it also had to examine its early-season shortcomings.

The Pioneers ran into a hot shooting team. Lakeridge went 11-for-21 beyond the arc while Sandy was finding nothing but iron. There was a brief stretch in the second half where Sandy guard Jacob Groom was heating up, but the Pacers could afford to focus on him because other the Pioneers were struggling from the field.

“They were keying in on him, so it was tough for him to get any open looks,” Maki said.

And, of course, there’s the matter of defense.

While Oliver was an outstanding player both inside and out, he’s much like the guards on some of the better teams Sandy will face this year.

“Our defense will have to improve for us to win some of the tougher games in our conference,” Maki said. “Milwaukie will have guards that can penetrate like that, and we cannot let them get all the way to the rim.”

When the Pioneers congregated for practice on Monday, they focused on defense and getting in front of opponents.

They had little exposure to post play on Tuesday against South Albany, which typically shoots 30-40 three pointers per game. But on Friday when they face The Dalles Wahtonka, a player like Oliver will return in the form of 6-foot-5 senior Grayson Byers.

“Keying on him will be key,” Maki said.

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