Lake Oswego boys beat South Salem 80-63 to take third at state
The Lakers did it their way.
Senior guard Josh Angle shot the lights out from long range. Senior post Fred Harding muscled up down low and dunked on the smaller Saxons. Junior guard Sam Abere turned up the defensive heat against South Salem star Jaden Nielsen-Skinner and knocked down shots at the other end. Sophomore point guard Wayne McKinney turned on the jets, flew to the hoop and passed effectively. And senior forward Brandon Roberts did his usual jack-of-all-trades routine, scoring, rebounding, defending and hustling all over the court.
By the time the smoke had cleared — the Lakers also getting contributions from junior post Grant Fuson, sophomore forward Trace Salton, junior forward Casey Graver and senior guard Dylan Senf — coach Marshall Cho's Lakers had buried the Saxons 80-63 to win their first team trophy since finishing third back in 2013.
"I just wanted to finish it out with my brothers," said Angle, who was named first-team all-tournament after leading all scorers with 28 points, along with five rebounds and three assists. "(I'll just remember) the little stuff, the chemistry we had, the bonds we made and all that. That's will be what I remember for sure."
"It feels good to end on a win with my brothers," said Harding, a second-team all-tournament selection who finished with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. "It's an honor playing with these guys, and to come out with a win was good."
"It meant so much, just being able to play with my best friends here," said Roberts, who added six points and three rebounds. "I love these players and I hope to see them again every single day after this."
With the victory, the Three Rivers League-champion Lakers bounced back from a tough 52-40 semifinal loss to eventual state champion Jesuit, won for the ninth time in their final 10 games and finished the 2018-19 season with a 24-5 record.
The Mountain Valley Conference champion Saxons, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and ended their year with a 23-6 record.
For the Lakers' seniors, the chance to play together again on Saturday— and to win again as they had so many times this season — meant everything.
"We just have a lot of great chemistry. We've been playing with each other a really long time," said senior guard Dylan Senf. "We bring a lot of joy to each other when we play together."
"It felt good to get one more win under our belt and one more chance to play together as a team," added senior post Grant Fuson, who scored five points, grabbed four rebounds and doled out three assists in the win. "Everyone shared the ball down the stretch and it was all for each other. We all played for each other. We wanted to go out with a big bang."
The Lakers' final win, however, didn't come easily.
South Salem, with Nielsen-Skinner breaking free for 21 points, four rebounds and four assists, grabbed an early 7-2 lead on a foul shot by Ryan Brown just 1 minute, 17 seconds into the game and still led 16-14 at the end of the period when Nielsen-Skinner hit a pull-up from the top of the key with 1:05 to go.
On their end of the court, the Lakers stayed close thanks to two Roberts' baskets and 3-pointers from both Angle and Fuson.
The Saxons kept the pressure on in the second quarter, too, pushing ahead 26-21 when Nielsen-Skinner buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:34 left in the half, but the Lakers kept coming, led by Angle and his long-range marksmanship.
In the final 4:19 of the half, Angle knocked down four "3s," taking a McKinney pass and hitting from the top of the key, following up with another bomb off a Graver assist on the next possession, connecting again from the top of the key with 2:37 to go in the half, and finally, taking a pass from Fuson and hitting from the left wing to give his team a 38-31 lead with 18 seconds remaining in the second period.
Abere was tough in that late stretch, too, hitting a 3-pointer of his own and adding a pair of foul shots in the final 1:27 of the half to help the Lakers lead 38-33 at the break.
South Salem kept fighting in the third quarter, closing within 44-42 when Trey Galbraith hit a pair of foul shots with 5:59 to go in the period, but Lake Oswego began to impose its will on the game after that. Over the next 3:56, the Lakers outscored the Saxons 11-3 to push ahead 55-45, getting an Abere "3" assisted by Fuson, a baseline jumper from Angle, a Fuson hoop inside set up by Abere, two Roberts free throws and a Salton basket in the key.
Still leading 57-47 at the start of the fourth quarter, Lake Oswego just kept hammering on South Salem, with Graver and Angle hitting back-to-back 3-pointers early in the period to boost their lead to 65-49, and McKinney converting on a putback for a 67-52 edge with 3:19 left in the game.
Then after the Saxons edged back within 67-56 on a Nielsen-Skinner three-point play and one free throw by Ryan Rickman with three minutes remaining, McKinney hit two foul shots, Harding took a Fuson pass and dunked, and Angle scored a breakaway hoop off a long Fuson pass to extend the Laker lead to 73-56 and finally break South Salem with two minutes left in the contest.
"They were pretty good, but we came out to play, especially in the second half," Roberts said. "We just came out and played our basketball. It was great seeing everybody making contributions to the win."
For Angle, who closed his Laker career by hitting 9 of 14 shots from the field (including 6 of 10 "3s") and all four of his free throws, the explanation for his stellar performance was simple.
"I just came out relaxed," he said.
Fuson went into more depth about the Lakers' excellence.
"It's great to have everyone play to their strengths in the last game," he said. "We wish we could have done it against Jesuit, but it's good to go out in the last game with everyone playing to their strengths."
For Abere and the underclassmen, Saturday's game also marked a chance to honor the team's seniors — Angle, Harding, Roberts, Fuson, Senf and Amir Fenderski.
"That was everything," Abere said. "That was the main reason and the whole goal for this game, to make sure they went out with a win. They've done so much for our program and so much building us up. I wouldn't have wanted to end any other way."
Abere finished with 14 points, three rebounds, an assist and one steal, Fuson added five points, four rebounds and three assists, and McKinney added seven points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals.
As a team, Lake Oswego hit 28 of 54 shots from the field (including 10 of 22 "3s") and 14 of 19 free throws, and outrebounded the Saxons 38-25.
For South Salem, in addition to Nielsen-Skinner's efforts, Treyden Harris had 13 points, four rebounds and three steals, Brown had 10 points and six rebounds, and Eric Lungu had nine points, four rebounds and five steals.
As a team, the Saxons went 21 of 51 from the field (including 7 of 22 3-pointers) and 14 of 23 from the foul line.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)