Next play, next possession.
On the road, in a hostile environment, the Lake Oswego boys basketball team found itself facing true adversity for the first time all season, trailing Jesuit 49-46 with just over two minutes to go in the fourth. The Lakers' seven-point lead evaporated without a trace, leaving the Three Rivers League favorite in the Knight Center unaided with no cavalry coming.
But Lake Oswego kept competing. Move onto the next play, the next possession is one of the pillars head coach Marshall Cho has built his program upon. Laker senior Josh Angle answered with a huge three to tie it up 49-49. With the tide stemmed, senior Brandon Roberts made a handful of huge impactful plays down the stretch including the go-ahead hoop on a tough reverse layup to give the Lakers a 51-49 lead with 90 seconds remaining in the non-league contest.
Jesuit went for the jugular in a battle of blue-blooded programs, but Lake Oswego kept a level head, flushing the forgettable moments with quick memories and cooly executing in the clutch to take the road test 53-51 on Tuesday at Jesuit High School.
"It's part of our culture, we're always going on to the next play and don't dwell on what happens," Lake Oswego junior guard Sam Abere said. "It's that 'next play' mentality. We don't want to give our opponents that energy. We're not going to let them suck that out of us. That's how we always need to play."
With Angle and sophomore Wayne McKinney drawing most of Jesuit's defensive attention, others needed to step up, particularly in crunch time as the Crusaders went on their eleventh-hour run. Abere and Roberts were both terrific in the fourth quarter. Abere began the final frame with a floater that gave Lake Oswego a 39-35 advantage. Then, the scrappy junior shooting guard hustled for a long rebound, spun into the lane and lifted another teardrop through the tin. A few trips down the floor later, Abere split two Crusader defenders out of a side pick-and-roll and kicked it to a wide open McKinney along the right wing for three that made it 44-39. McKinney did his usual damage with 21 points and five assists. But in a game where's Angle's perimeter looks were limited, Abere brought energy and effectiveness, giving the Lakers a key lift.
"Being a hype man is something I enjoy and I just like to pick other people up," Abere said. "That's the role I'm willing to take on. I knew (Angle and McKinney) were going to have a ton of people on them, so I just had to seize my opportunities and help the team out as best I could."
The Crusader late-gasp barrage laid into Lake Oswego like a wrecking ball, leveling the Lakers' 46-39 fourth-quarter lead with a spree of transition threes and turnovers that led to fast break buckets. Justin Bieker scored back-to-back hoops, first off a pull-up jumper and the other on a steal. The senior southpaw scored a game-high 25 points, aggressively looking to make plays for himself and his teammates off the dribble and in transition. Bieker and Will Sheaffer headed a hard-nosed, chest-to-chest Crusader defense that lit up in the fourth quarter, sparking both the crowd and the intensity level on the floor. Unexpectedly, Lake Oswego's comfortable seven-point lead turned into a three-point deficit thanks to consecutive threes from Jesuit sharpshooter Aiden Williams. Williams, smothered by Roberts for the majority of the first three quarters, caught fire in the blink of an eye.
"That shows our heart," Bieker said. "We're just going to battle, battle, battle every play. No matter what the case is we're always going to fight. We hate to lose and don't take losing lightly, especially in front of our own crowd."
Jesuit senior Connor Kollas swatted Angle with two hands at the summit, Jesuit got out in transition and a trailing Kollas tipped a pass to Willams who flicked another three from the same left corner to go up 49-46. The Crusaders climbed back into the game with customary full-go effort and fire, a must for any Jesuit player hoping to crack Gene Potter's rotation.
"We love our team this year, how we look, how we play," Bieker said. "Nobody's playing harder than us. We're bringing that every game. We hang our hats on that."
But Angle somehow got free from the left wing and drilled the deep triple off a great skip pass from Casey Graver to tie it up 49-49. The Lakers dug in and got a stop, then Roberts ripped down the left baseline and reversed home a tough righty layup to go up 51-49. And with Bieker bent on getting to the rim, Roberts stood in front the Crusader and took a charge square in the chest with 1:14 to go. Still nursing the two-point lead, Roberts caught an Angle airball, kicked the rock back out to McKinney who drove to the rim and cashed in the second effort with a lefty layup to extend Lake Oswego's lead to 53-49 with 34.8 seconds left in the fourth.
"We have to be sharp every play or else games can slip away," Bieker said. "I thought we did a great job of executing on offense in the fourth, but on defense, we left (Angle) open for that three. They had some lay-ins, some putbacks. We didn't box out a couple of times. It's little stuff like that that cost us the game. We'll go back to work tomorrow and be ready the next game."
Bieker pulled Jesuit within a hoop with a pull-up jumper to make it 53-51. Subsequently, the Lakers missed the front end of a one-and-one and Jesuit's Matthew Levis grabbed the defensive board with 18.2 seconds left. Bieker dribbled behind his back and got a half step on McKinney driving right, but Roberts again stepped in from his helpside position and drew the charge with four seconds to go. The go-ahead hoop, a huge offensive board that led to another basket and most of all two crucial charges to take the ball away from Jesuit. If there was an unsung MVP of the game, it was Roberts who might as well been wearing a hard hat with the way he went about his business.
"That's what (Roberts) does, he's the hustle guy," Abere said with a smile. "He's a bruiser who's willing to sacrifice his body no matter what for the team."
However, after a Laker timeout, Lake Oswego coughed up the ball trying to get it inbounds. Instead of salting the game away at the free throw line, possession went back to Jesuit with 2.6 seconds to go. With no timeouts left Jesuit was forced to rush the ensuing sideline inbounds pass in front of its own bench and threw a contested heave toward the middle of the floor that McKinney knocked away to secure the 53-51 win. Lake Oswego is 4-0 to begin the year with two more big non-league games against Central Catholic and Barlow ahead. Jesuit fell to 2-2 with both losses coming versus teams ranked in the top-four of the 6A coaches' poll. Angle added 10 points for the Lakers. Abere finished with six and Roberts had four. Levis had nine and Williams finished with seven points for Jesuit.
"We have a lot to work on still — this exposed a lot of holes in our game, but I think this just shows our brotherhood, how we can all band together and stick through it," Abere said. "The environment was really fun to play in and I just think it showed what we need to work on and how we can react to adversity."