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The Lakers battle back into contention from 17 points down before falling short

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lake Oswego senior guard Casey Graver goes up to score his last basket during the Lakers' 52-45 loss to Churchill in the MLK Invitational at the Chiles Center on Monday, Jan. 20.The Lake Oswego boys basketball team started digging right from the opening tip of its game in the MLK Invitational.

The Lakers — facing Churchill at the Chiles Center on Monday, Jan. 20 — started digging in the first quarter against the Lancers and kept digging all the way into the third quarter.

By the time LO had stopped the excavation, it found itself in a 17-point hole against Churchill, the top-ranked Class 5A team in the state.

The Lakers finally energized themselves in the fourth quarter and used their fullcourt press to battle back into contention before finally falling short 52-45.

"It just took a little bit for us to show some energy," said Lake Oswego senior guard Casey Graver, who finished with 17 points (on 6 of 11 shooting from the field — including four 3-pointers — and 1 of 2 foul shots), along with four rebounds, one steal and one block. "We just waited until the fourth quarter to bring some fight and it was too late."

"It was a rough couple of quarters. The first half was pretty rough," agreed Lake Oswego junior post Trace Salton, who led all scorers with 19 points (on 7 of 16 shooting from the field — including one "three" — and 4 of 4 foul shots), along with eight rebounds, two steals and one block. "The fourth quarter is where we kicked it in, but we've got to start games like that."

With the loss, the Lakers fell to 6-8 overall (they're also currently tied for first place in the Three Rivers League at 2-0). Next up, the Lakers return to TRL action when they visit crosstown rival Lakeridge in the "Battle of the Lake" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21. Churchill, meanwhile, won for the fifth straight time and improved to 10-3 overall (the Lancers are also tied for first place in the Midwestern League at 5-0).

Churchill 52, Lake Oswego 45

While Lake Oswego was less than its energetic best at the outset of Monday's game, the Lancers — especially senior guard Brian Goracke — were ready to roll. Goracke broke free for 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first quarter and, along with a 3-pointer from senior teammate Isaiah Wallace, helped Churchill step out to an 18-12 edge at the end of the period.

Salton tried to keep the Lakers close with nine points in the opening stanza and Graver added his first "three," but things got worse for Lake Oswego before they got better.

The Lancers continued to operate freely in the second quarter, getting points from five different players to extend their lead to 34-19 at the half. Wallace bombed in another 3-pointer in the second quarter and scored five points, senior forward Dylan Carson added a "three" of his own and collected four points, and sophomore guard Samaje Morgan added yet another 3-pointer for Churchill.

On their end of the court, the Lakers hit just 2 of 7 shots from the field (including a "three" from senior post Grant Brauner) in the period and scored just seven points as their deficit reached 15.

"We didn't give all the effort we had," Salton said. "We should have had a lot more energy."

"We've got to give them credit," Graver said. "They came out and played well and we didn't play our best basketball."

Then, at the start of the third quarter, Churchill senior guard Kaelan O'Neil made a steal, and at the other end, Goracke took a pass from Morgan and scored inside as Churchill's lead crested at 36-19 with 6:53 remaining in the period.

While the Lakers steadied themselves the rest of the quarter and held the Lancers to just seven points, they scored just eight themselves (four by Graver including a "three" and four by Salton) and still trailed 41-27 entering the fourth period.

But there, finally, in the game's last eight minutes, the Lakers found some life. They began to pressure the Lancers all over the court, forced four turnovers in the first three minutes of the frame and turned those into four points, with Graver's steal and breakaway cutting LO's deficit to 41-35 with 5:12 left in the game.

The Lancers responded with a pair of baskets by Morgan to push Churchill's lead back to 45-35 with 3:17 to go, but the Lakers just kept coming. From there, Graver hit another pair of "threes," senior guard Sam Abere connected on a drive and Graver came through again to bring LO within 50-45 with 13 seconds to go.

But from there, Churchill senior Silas Bennion hit a pair of foul shots with 10 seconds left to end Lake Oswego's scant comeback hopes.

"We just decided to come out and play more aggressive, we trapped a little bit and we were able to create some steals off of that," Graver said. "But unfortunately, we've been in that situation too many times where we've had to claw back. We've done that, but we can't get in a hole. We've done that too many times this season."

"I think what really got us back into the game, coming back from 17 down, was one of our coaches said 'Hey. We've got to believe,'" Salton said. "Those are words we are trying to put into a pillar for this program, and after he said that, a gear just flipped in our brains and we turned it up a notch."

For Lake Oswego, Jack Chlumak finished with two points, six rebounds and two assists, and Abere had four points, two rebounds and two assists. For Churchill, Goracke had 18 points eight rebounds and one steal, Morgan had 10 points, two rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Bennion had five points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal.

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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