After winning its play-in game, Lakeridge nearly topples Southridge in an exciting first-round match-up

by: VERN UYETAKE - Patrick Jaco puts up a shot in Lakeridge's play-in victory over Centennial last week.The Lakeridge boys basketball team wrapped up an up and down season with, appropriately, another nail-biter.

The Pacers have played in more than their share of close contests this year, winning a handful early in the season before their luck changed and they lost their final four league contest, two of which were decided by three points or less.

But, on Tuesday, Lakeridge nearly pulled off an upset at Southridge, the No. 2 team out of the Metro League this year and one with a win over the Pacers already this season.

The game may have been the best of the 16 played in the opening round of the playoffs on Tuesday. The teams were never separated by more than two possessions and the contest came down to the final possession in a tough 54-51 defeat.

A slow first quarter saw both teams playing a bit tentatively and biding their time on offense. The Pacers were tied 10-10 after the opening period but then started to gain confidence.

Oliver had a big game all around but was particularly adept scoring the ball and had his shooting touch working early.

Oliver was playing with a nagging back and rib injury, the latter of which forced him to miss nearly all of the team's play-in game with Centennial last week.

The Pacers would go up 28-23 at the half, which would prove to be the team's largest lead of the game.

Southridge battled back and took advantage of some careless Lakeridge turnovers to erase the deficit and built a two-point lead of its own heading into the final period.

But the Pacers stayed tough, slowing Southridge's momentum and eventually regaining the lead. The Pacers took a 51-49 lead on a three-point play from Oliver with 1:39 remaining but Lakeridge wouldn't score again in the contest.

The Skyhawks scored on their next trip down the court to tie the game and the Pacers missed a shot on the other end.

Southridge set up a final play with a little more than a minute left and worked the ball for an open three-pointer on the baseline, giving the team a 54-51 lead.

Southridge then used its two fouls to give to leave the Pacers with 10 seconds to get off a three-point shot.

Oliver got the ball to Michael Walker who left a heavily contested three-pointer just short.

The loss followed a challenging play-in victory over Centennial last week. After losing Oliver early in the first quarter, Walker's outside shooting picked up the slack in a 53-41 victory.

Lakeridge was ice cold to start the game as Centennial built a small 11-8 lead. The Eagle's zone was effective early on against the Pacers who couldn't take advantage of some open jump shots.

But Lakeridge started to find its rhythm on offense in the second quarter, getting a pair of three-pointers from Walker and then a huge three-pointer from well behind the arc by Eric Dungey at the first-half buzzer to give his team a 24-21 lead.

Walker continued to get good shots and hit two more three-pointers in the third quarter as Centennial struggled to contain him. Lakeridge's defense also buckled down and forced Centennial into some tougher shots, leading to a 35-28 lead with one quarter to play.

Bryce Anderson knocked down a big early three-pointer for Lakeridge in the fourth quarter and Centennial struggled to mount a comeback.

The Pacers got a pair of nice hoops on assists from Patrick Jaco to Madison Pihl to extend the lead and then a steal and thundering dunk from Dungey.

Centennial would cut the lead to seven points but that's as close as the Eagles would get as Lakeridge picked apart its weak full-court press for easy buckets late in the game.

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