Lakeridge girls win first playoff berth since 2013, fall to Benson 79-44
The Lakeridge girls basketball team knew that it had a big challenge ahead in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
So the Pacers did what they'd done all year long — they went out and fought their hardest.
The No. 30 Pacers, playing at third-ranked Benson in the first round of the state playoffs on Feb. 28, fell behind the Lady Techsters early, held their own in the second and fourth quarters and eventually dropped a 79-44 decision at Benson High School.
"As we expected, Benson was a very tough opponent," said Lakeridge coach Jason Brown, whose team earned its first state playoff berth since 2013. "The speed and intensity that they play the game at is tough to simulate."
With the loss, the Pacers ended their 2018-19 season with a 10-14 overall record after previously finishing fifth in the Three Rivers League race. Benson, meanwhile, went on to beat No. 14 Century 88-46 in the second round of the playoffs and earned a berth in this week's Class 6A state tournament. The Lady Techsters are scheduled to play No. 6 Jesuit in the quarterfinals, with that game set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.
Benson opened the contest against Lakeridge at a dead sprint, racing out to a 24-8 first-quarter lead behind senior Tayler Lyday's 12 points and 11 more (including two 3-pointers) from senior Cici Ellington. The Pacers, meanwhile, tried to stay close, getting two points each in the opening frame from freshman Reese Ericson, freshman Kiersten Weiler, sophomore Rose Daniels and senior Brooke Clinton.
"The game was tough, (but) a great learning experience for our girls," Brown said.
While the Pacers got knocked back on their heels in that first quarter, they began to come to life in the second, with junior Abbi Fedrizzi scoring five points (including one "3") in the frame. Benson eventually won the quarter, outscoring Lakeridge 16-13 to extend its lead to 40-21 at halftime, getting five points from Ellington and four each by Liday and junior Aujae Yoakum.
Already in serious trouble, the Pacers saw their comeback hopes squashed in the third period when the Lady Techsters put together a 25-9 scoring edge that boosted their lead to 65-30 and essentially put their victory on ice.
Ellington tacked another seven points onto her game-high 23, while junior teammate Bria Dixson got it going from long range, hitting three 3-pointers in the period and scoring 11 of her 20 points.
While a comeback was out of the question, the Pacers kept playing hard and matched Benson in a 14-14 fourth quarter, with sophomore Addie Reardon scoring all seven of her points in the final quarter while Clinton added five of her 13.
"I was very proud of the effort our girls gave. We never backed down and fought all the way to the end," Brown said.
For the game, Ellington finished with 23, Dixson had 20, Lyday finished with 19 and Yoakum added 10. Clinton, one of just three seniors on the Pacers' roster (along with Julia Fennell and Kendall Thornburgh), led Lakeridge with 13 points in her final high school game. Reardon added seven and Fedrizzi five in the loss.
"This will bode very well for our future," Brown added. "We got a close-up of what it takes to compete at a very high level, and now have even more of a desire to continue working hard to get back and do even better next year, and years to come."