After a stunning loss in the semis, Lake Oswego tops No. 2 Jesuit for the third time this season

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff gives Calvin Hermanson a hug during the state tournament last week at the Rose Garden.It says something about the talent level of a team when a third-place finish in state and a 28-1 record which included wins over nationally-ranked powers, can seem like a profound disappointment.

Yet that's where the Lakers ended up last week after completing their third win of the season against rival Jesuit.

“It was kind of like a mouth rinse for us but it didn't really take away the hurt. The kids were still pretty devastated,” coach Mark Shoff said.

Lake Oswego's lone loss of the season came at a truly inopportune time. After the Lakers battled to a pair of tight playoff wins over Tigard and then Southridge in the state tournament opener, league rival West Linn's slow down tactics were enough to eke out a shocking 37-36 win. The Lions would go on to win the state title over Central Catholic who upset Jesuit in the other semifinal.

While the season didn't end with the trophy that Lake Oswego had coveted since the beginning of the season, it will still go down as one of the most impressive in school history.

Lake Oswego steamrolled its competition this year, winning all but two of its games by double digits, climbing the national ranks and claiming its first Les Schwab Invitational, which traditionally features a more talented field than the state tournament.

And while it's difficult to compare some of the great team's in Lake Oswego's history, Shoff certainly includes this squad among the best and said the 2012-13 Lakers will always stand out.

“It's the most fun team I've ever coached. It was the nicest group I've had and that chemistry is what made us good,” Shoff said.

Lake Oswego opened the state tournament against a battle-test Southridge team that had a penchant for playing close playoff games.

The Skyhawks opened the game by taking time off the clock and deliberately trying to shorten the contest against the heavily favored Lakers.

Nerves and the Rose Garden environment may have affected both teams as they combined to miss their first nine shots from the field.

“Our game plan was to shoot from close in and then the first thing we do is start putting up threes,” Shoff said.

Lake Oswego finally got on the board four minutes into the contest on a big dunk by Connor Griffin but the Lakers only led 8-6 after the opening period.

The Lakers did a nice job on the boards in the game and created Southridge turnovers, holding the Skyhawks to just 12 points in the half but struggled to build a lead.

Lake Oswego was ice cold from the floor, even missing a handful of shots from close to the basket.

Colin Caslick knocked down a three-pointer and Calvin Hermanson converted a three-point play but a late drive by Southridge cut the lead to 18-12 at the break.

“We knew they were a tough, physical team. We wanted to start building a lead and got a little frustrated,” Griffin said.

The Skyhawks' confidence grew the longer they stayed in the game. Hermanson scored the team's first seven points of the second half but the Lakers still couldn't shake Southridge, clinging to a 28-22 lead with one quarter to play.

Early in the fourth quarter, Caslick drained another three-pointer to put Lake Oswego up 33-23 with seven minutes to play which seemingly put the game out of reach.

However, a missed lay-up, which could have extended the lead, seemed to spark Southridge and the Skyhawks went on a 9-1 to close the gap to two points with less than four minutes to play.

“We just told the guys that the team with the biggest heart wins this game. It felt like a heavyweight fight,” Shoff said.

Southridge would then miss the front end of one-and-one free throw attempts twice and Hermanson scored on a pretty feed from Jack Anderson.

Caslick would score a lay-up after a nice steal and assist from Griffin and, with Southridge trying to foul, Griffin scored an easy hoop to put the game away.

“When adversity hits, we've gotten stronger this year,” Griffin said.

Hermanson finished with 22 points, half of the Lakers' total.

Lake Oswego then moved on to the semifinals which was a rematch of last year's contest against West Linn.

The Lakers easily defeated the Lions in the playoffs last year with a hot shooting performance and had a pair of lopsided wins over West Linn in the regular season.

Both teams looked loose early, trading baskets with Hermanson having plenty of early success.

A trio of West Linn turnovers allowed Lake Oswego to take a 12-7 lead before West Linn closed the half on a 7-0 run to go up 14-12 at the end of the first quarter.

The game slowed considerably in the second quarter as West Linn switched to a 2-1-2 zone and collapsed on Hermanson to try and slow him down.

West Linn continued to chew up clock and the Lakers struggled offensively.

While the Lakers got some open looks, they were 0-for-7 on three-pointers in the first half.

West Linn led 20-17 at the break.

“No one ran on offense against us. They'd hid three guys on the baseline and let their guards dribble and dribble and delay. And when a team does that, you start feeling pressure to score every time you get the ball and you start rushing things,” Shoff said.

The Lions quickly upped the lead to six with an early three-pointer in the third quarter but Lake Oswego's defense was stingy and allowed the Lakers to slowly crawl back in the game, getting a put-back from Griffin to knot the score at 23-23.

West Linn's freshman point guard Payton Pritchard took scoring matters into his own hands in the third quarter, where he scored all eight of his points for the game, including two three-pointers.

With a four-point lead late, the Lions held the ball for the final 1:10 of the quarter and Anthony Mathis drained a contested three-pointer at the buzzer for perhaps the biggest shot of the game, giving the Lions a 33-26 lead with eight minutes to play.

West Linn got even more conservative in the fourth quarter and would have been content to milk the entire eight minutes. But Lake Oswego upped its on-the-ball pressure, causing turnovers and forcing West Linn to burn all but one of its time-outs with five minutes to play.

Lake Oswego also went on a quick 7-0 run to tie the game with 3:54 to play. The run was capped by a three-pointer from Caslick, Lake Oswego's first of the game.

“We're not a really good pressing team. Our defense revolves around being conservative and solid but we did a nice job to get back in the game,” Shoff said.

With the score tied, West Linn was forced to run its offense again and responded with a pair of free throws to regain the lead.

Griffin then split a pair of free throws and Hermanson converted a strong drive with 1:20 to play to give the Lakers a 36-35 lead.

Free throw shooting was a huge issue in the game for the Lakers as the team went just 5-for-11 from the line.

Pritchard then missed for West Linn and Lake Oswego gathered the rebound. The referees swallowed their whistles late in the game which led to physical defense by both teams.

West Linn came up with a crucial steal with 54 seconds left but couldn't convert to take the lead.

The Lions tallied another steal on an inbounds pass and Shearmire scored inside with 20 seconds to play as West Linn regained the lead.

“We got the lead and then we gave them the ball back twice and you just can't do that,” Shoff said.

On Lake Oswego's next possession, the team cleared out and let Hermanson carry the ball up the court. He took a deep three-pointer which missed and a jump-ball on the rebound gave Lake Oswego possession under the basket with 2.2 seconds remaining.

West Linn tried to force the ball into Griffin in the paint but it was knocked away and stolen as the Lions held on for the upset.

Hermanson made up the bulk of the team's offense again, scoring 20 of the squad's 36 points.

It was a devastating loss for the senior-heavy team that entered the season as favorites to win the state title and more than lived up to expectations throughout the season.

“West Linn had the perfect game plan against us. If you know you can't keep up with a team, you stall and try to shorten the game and they have two really good guards who can do that. I've used the same tactic before against a team like Jesuit in the past because I knew we'd get killed otherwise. But I think Oregon really needs a shot clock. If you look around at the tournament a lot of the games were just boring and kind of tough to watch sometimes,” Shoff said.

The Lakers then had to regroup to take on their most heated non-league rival in the third-place game on Saturday. Heading into the tournament, many people figured the Lake Oswego/Jesuit showdown would be for the state title and both teams entered the game under difficult circumstances.

“It's always a tough game to play but (Jesuit coach) Gene (Potter) and I got together before the game and kind of decided that we were just going to play everyone which was nice because those other kids who have put in the work this year deserved that opportunity,” Shoff said.

The game had a loose feel to it from the start. Lake Oswego was on early, getting a three-pointer from Daniel Verburg to build a 15-8 lead.

The Lakers opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run which included a pair of three-pointers by Caslick and another by Verburg.

Virtually the entire roster saw extended minutes and contributed in the contest.

The Lakers led by nine at the half and continued to keep Jesuit at an arm's length in the third period.

Lake Oswego held Jesuit to just 13 points in the second half and the Crusaders went just 3-for-27 on three-pointers in the game. Lake Oswego easily pulled away for the 52-32 win, completing a three-game sweep over the Crusaders for the year.

Caslick led Lake Oswego with 15 points while Natan Jurkovitz had seven points and five rebounds for the team off the bench.

The victory allowed the team's incredibly strong senior class to go out on a winning note. Lake Oswego will undergo a huge transition next year as the Lakers will graduate all five starters and two top contributors off the bench.

But many of the Lakers' back-ups got extended minutes this year in mop-up duty and will have a chance to shine next winter.

“Our freshman team was 19-3 and our JV was very good but you're not going to replace a Calvin Hermanson,” Shoff said.

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