by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge’s Ian Maurer, center, goes high for a rebound during Tuesday’s TRL opener against West Linn. The Lions won the game 63-60.

Four years ago, Lakeridge boys basketball coach Dave Nuss shook his head in disbelief after an apparent clock error gave Oregon City a chance to recover a full-court pass and knock down a game-winning lay-up in 1.8 seconds, costing his team a big victory.

'That just shouldn't happen on your home court,' he said at the time. And he repeated those words on Tuesday with the same look on his face following a 63-60 loss to West Linn. But this time, it was in regards to the 48 free throws that the Lions attempted in the game compared to just 13 by the Pacers.

'I don't want to lay it all on (the free throws). They outscored us by 21 points at the foul line and end up only beating us by three points. I think that says a lot about the way things went for us,' Nuss said.

Foul shooting dominated a bizarre game. The Lions made a point of working the ball inside to its posts and relied on slashing drives by leading scorer Justin Monahan, who had 31 points, for the bulk of its offense.

Lakeridge played physical and aggressive defense, blocking numerous shots, but the team also picked up fouls in bunches.

Fortunately for the Pacers, West Linn only hit 28 of its 48 attempts and, as a result, Lakeridge had a chance to win until the closing second of the game.

The Pacers benefited from eight first-quarter turnovers by West Linn and got off to a good start. Lakeridge also received some unexpected good news when Chris Hoch, after suffering a partial tear of his MCL early in the season, was cleared to play just three weeks after the injury.

'It was a big boost having Chris back in the line-up for us,' Nuss said.

It was a bruising game from start to finish and, despite being out-sized, the Pacers did a terrific job on the boards all night.

Lakeridge held a slim lead for much of the first half. Josh Little had a hot hand in the second quarter for the Pacers, knocking down a pair of three-pointers. He scored eight of his 15 points in the stanza.

However, Lakeridge coughed the ball up nine times in the quarter. Monahan took over on offense for the Lions, scoring 12 points of his own and keying a late 6-0 run that gave West Linn a 35-30 lead at the break.

But the Pacers weren't down for long. Lakeridge came out of the locker room on fire. Tyler Larsen hit a pair of jumpers and Little knocked down another three-pointer.

'We hit some big shots. Josh played really well for us,' Nuss said.

Freshman Michael Hoch dominated the paint, pulling down four quick rebounds and scoring a pair of baskets on put-backs. Lakeridge opened the second half on a 16-6 run.

'Our post guys, Michael, Robert Breedlove, James Higgins, Ian Maurer, those guys played better than they have all year,' Nuss said.

However, the team went cold and West Linn crawled back into the game at the foul line as post Max Cathcart hit five of eight attempts. Still, Lakeridge led by a point with one quarter to play.

The fourth quarter went back and forth as neither team could establish momentum. Lakeridge also had to play cautiously as a number of players were in the game with four fouls.

West Linn took a one-point lead midway through the quarter but a pair of free throws by Chris Hoch gave Lakeridge a 57-56 advantage.

The Lions' Ryan Barnes then drove along the baseline for a twisting lay-up that put West Linn back on top.

'We had a breakdown defensively there. At that point, you have to get a stop. You get that stop and we're the ones celebrating,' Nuss said.

Lakeridge failed to convert on its next possession and Monahan hit a driving lay-up while falling down, pushing the lead to three points.

'(Monahan)'s very active. He's a good ball-player. We did a decent job on him but obviously not enough,' Nuss said.

Monahan then came up with a steal and scored while getting fouled. He had 14 points in the fourth quarter. The game was seemingly out of reach as the Pacers trailed by six with 14 seconds to play.

But Little rattled home another three-pointer with three seconds to play and Barnes missed two free throws which would have sealed the game.

Trevan Hertz grabbed the rebound for the Pacers but his half-court heave was off-target and Lakeridge was saddled with a loss in its league-opener.

'I thought we played well enough to win. We had our chances and it's just unfortunate the way things turned out,' Nuss said.

Little had 15 points and Larsen had 12 while Michael Hoch had 11 points and eight rebounds. Up next for Lakeridge is a road game against No. 1 Oregon City on Friday.

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