Lakeridge girls basketball opens playoffs with 62-31 win over Liberty
You could excuse the Lakeridge girls basketball team if they might have felt a little nervous in their 2022 state playoff opener.
After all, Lakeridge won the Three Rivers League for the first time since most of the Pacers were in preschool and found themselves in the unusual position of hosting a Class 6A first-round playoff game.
But once the game tipped off, Lakeridge proved it was more than ready for prime time, burying five 3-pointers in the game's first five minutes and building on that fast start to beat the Falcons 62-31 on Wednesday, March 2, at Lakeridge High School.
"It felt good," said Lakeridge senior post Kiersten Weiler, who scored just two points, but grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots. "I think we've put the work in this week and the whole season so we had a lot of confidence in ourselves going into it."
"We had a lot of confidence," agreed Pacer senior point guard Reese Ericson, who had 16 points (on 7 of 11 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers), along with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. "We've been preparing, watching film every day, playing against guys in practice. We've been putting the work in, especially this last week getting ready for playoffs."
Besides their efforts, junior wing Keelie O'Hollaren led all scorers with 21 points (on 8 of 20 shooting from the field, including five "threes"), along with 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and one block.
With the win — the fourth-ranked Pacers' eighth straight — Lakeridge improved to 21-4 overall. Next up, the Pacers will host No. 13 Oregon City (17-8 overall) — a 57-35 winner over No. 20 Mountain View on Wednesday.
No. 29 Liberty, meanwhile, lost for a second straight time and saw its season end at 8-14 overall after finishing fifth in the Pacific Conference.
Despite the loss, the Falcons were proud of their efforts against Lakeridge.
"We were just going to give it our hardest and work as a team," said Liberty freshman guard Kaliyah Chronister, who finished with eight points (on 3 of 13 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers), along with three rebounds and one steal. "We worked on not having the mindset that we were going to lose, that it didn't matter if we won or lost."
"I think we came out with a lot of energy and I felt like we all wanted to do good and we had that idea in our head," said senior post Brynly Bryan, who added a team-high nine points (on 3 of 11 shooting from the field and a 3 of 6 day at the foul line), along with 10 rebounds.
The Pacers hit the Falcons with a double-whammy in the first quarter, knocking down five "threes" — including two each by senior Kemper Flood and sophomore Karmen Perry — in the first five minutes, while simultaneously locking down Liberty with their defense.
On "D," Lakeridge held the Falcons to just 3 of 14 shooting from the floor in the first quarter and forced four turnovers to grab a 17-6 lead at the end of the period.
The Falcons, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the opening quarter, edged back within 21-11 thanks to a Chronister "three" from the right wing and a pair of free throws by freshman Kennedy Reamer.
But the Pacers shut Liberty down there, holding the Falcons scoreless over the final 4:32 of the half and boosting their lead to 20 points at halftime. Over the final 4:14 of the half, Lakeridge stitched together a 10-0 run that included three points from Flood, a "three" by Ericson, a pair of foul shots from Weiler and an O'Hollaren hoop to lead 31-11 at the break.
Already deep in trouble, the Falcons saw Lakeridge put the game on ice in the second half, in great part thanks to the Pacers' stellar ball movement and O'Hollaren's deadly long-range shooting. After a slow start to her night — O'Hollaren missed her first seven shots of the game — the Pacer wing absolutely caught fire. She hit eight of her final 13 shots from the floor, including six straight (five of them 3-pointers) in a span of 7:30 during the third and fourth quarters to put the Falcons away.
"This is somewhere Lakeridge hasn't been in a long, long time so we are getting ready for it," Ericson said. "We're just proving to ourselves every day why we put the work in and we're hoping it takes us far. We know the effort that we've put in and it's going to be a fun run."
On their end of the court, the Falcons left with their heads held high.
"It was a great season," Bryan said. "We started … our jamboree here and I guess this is just where we ended our journey, and I'm OK with that because I played my heart out."
Perry finished with nine points (on 3 of 8 shooting including three 3-pointers), along with one rebound and one steal. Kemper added nine points (on 3 of 8 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers and a 1 of 4 day at the foul line), along with four steals, three assists and one rebound. Liberty junior Sage Reamer and Kennedy Reamer added four points each in the loss.
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