LO knocks off the No. 7 team in the nation and rival Jesuit to win the tourney for the first time

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - The Lake Oswego basketball team poses with its trophy and bracket after winning the Les Schwab Invitational for the first time.The Lake Oswego boys basketball team has done nothing to temper expectations this season and last week's showing at the Les Schwab Invitational proved that this year's squad is not only a state title favorite, but one that can also compete on a national level.

“We've told the guys all season that they were going to have a target on their back but it's better to be that team than the other one. We've been in this position before, it's just a matter of execution,” coach Mark Shoff said.

The Lakers won the annual holiday tournament in impressive fashion, knocking off the No. 7 team in the country in the semifinals before getting over the hump against rival Jesuit with a dominant second half to claim the championship.

Lake Oswego opened its tournament against Sunset and the Apollos held their own, not allowing the Lakers to pull away until the fourth quarter.

Lake Oswego played solid defense in the game, holding Sunset to just 34 percent from the field. Lake Oswego only led by six points at the half but built a double-digit lead heading into the final period.

Calvin Hermanson led the way with 20 points and Connor Griffin chipped in 16 while leading the team with seven rebounds.

Lake Oswego then advanced to take on Central Catholic, one of the top teams in the state in the quarterfinals.

Again it was the Lakers' defense that paced the team on what was a somewhat slow night offensively.

The Lakers never found a rhythm in the first half and were held to just 14 points, trailing by six.

However, Lake Oswego quickly turned that deficit around in the third quarter and tied the game with eight minutes to play.

Daniel Verburg picked up some of the scoring slack in the game, draining three three-pointers. Once Lake Oswego found its rhythm, the team never looked back. The Lakers dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Rams 22-11 to turn what was a tough test into another convincing win.

Hermanson had 17 points in the game while Colin Caslick and Verburg each scored double figures.

In the semifinals, the Lakers squared off against Neumann-Goretti, the No. 7 ranked team in the nation from Philadelphia.

This time is was the Lakers who got off to the fast start, outscoring Neumann-Goretti 18-8 in the opening period.

“With the way we play defense it doesn't really matter what style teams throw at us. It's our second year with this system and they've picked it up,” Shoff said.

From that point, it was a matter of hanging on for the Lakers. Neumann-Goretti slowly chipped away at the lead but Lake Oswego stayed poised under pressure.

Hermanson was contained for much of the game but point guard Christian McDonald stepped up to carry the load.

McDonald would finish with 21 points in the game and did a nice job getting to the foul line to keep Neumann-Goretti at a distance.

“Christian really ran the team for us. We have a bunch of unselfish kids on this team. Calvin didn't have a great game by his standards but he was the happiest guy on the bus afterwards,” Shoff said.

Neumann-Goretti also struggled from outside the paint, going just 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Lake Oswego made the plays it needed to in the fourth quarter after Neumann-Goretti closed the gap to five points and the Lakers held on for a 63-59 victory.

That set up a showdown with a familiar opponent in Jesuit in the finals. The Crusaders have been the Lakers' nemesis of late, most recently knocking Lake Oswego off in last year's state title game.

Early on, it looked like Jesuit had Lake Oswego's number again.

In the first all-Oregon final at the Invitational since 2003, the Crusaders started out hot, taking a 9-2 lead on three three-pointers with Khyan Rayner doing most of the damage.

“We had a game plan coming in but I don't think the guys believed that Rayner likes shooting threes,” Shoff said.

Xavier Coleman then knocked down a full-court three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 16-8 after the first period and, at that point, it didn't appear to be the Lakers' night.

“I was thinking maybe we need to send our kids to church more when that went in,” Shoff said.

But Lake Oswego didn't panic, even with Hermanson struggling from the field in the opening half.

Verburg had the hot hand for the Lakers again, draining a three-pointer to cut the lead to 19-15 while Coleman picked up three fouls for Jesuit. Cory Coombe made an impact for the Lakers off the bench, drawing multiple fouls with his aggressive play.

Late in the half, Caslick converted a pretty three-point play to give Lake Oswego its first lead and the Lakers led 25-23 at the break.

Lake Oswego started to blow the game open early in the third quarter. After going 1-for-10 to start the game, Hermanson hit his first jumper of the second half and never looked back. An early run put Lake Oswego up 33-25 while Coleman was saddled with his fourth foul.

Griffin hit a shot at the buzzer to put Lake Oswego up 41-31 with one quarter to play.

The Lakers never looked back. Verburg hit another three-pointer early in the fourth quarter and Hermanson started to find success inside as Lake Oswego turned the title game into a rout, winning 62-43.

“It had been a while since we'd beaten them so this was big for the kids,” Shoff said.

Hermanson ended the game with 20 points and Verburg added 17.

Hermanson would make the all-tournament team as Lake Oswego won the prestigious tournament for the first time, becoming the first Oregon team to win the event since 2003 when Jesuit knocked off Lake Oswego in the final.

Lake Oswego will look to continue its early success on Friday with a rematch against Central Catholic.

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