BEAVERTON — One way to find out just how tough your boys basketball team is under pressure is to take them to Jesuit.
A game at Jesuit is one of the best mettle detectors around. The Crusaders are always good, they always apply the pressure and they’ll fight you to the buzzer. Then there’s the reputation.
Fourth-ranked Lake Oswego knew all that going into Tuesday’s showdown with the fifth-rated Crusaders and managed to hold them off 53-51.
It took something from everybody to get it done: 21 points from sophomore point guard Wayne McKinney, a critical three-pointer by Josh Angle that tied the game with 1:53 left, two charges taken by Brandon Roberts in the last 1:14 and a steal at the buzzer by McKinney.
The Lakers had not felt pressure like this in their first three games.
“Sheldon was actually a test,” Lakers coach Marshall Cho said of his team’s 15-point win in their opener, “and we got to see some of the guys step up then.
“But that was on our home turf. But a road game here is a completely different animal.”
The Lakers were up to the challenge from the beginning, and actually had two significant leads: 24-18 in the second quarter and 46-39 with 3:46 left in the game.
The Lakers were in cautious cruise mode in the latter situation, but the Crusaders followed senior forward Justin Bieker’s lead to a 10-point streak that gave them a 49-46 lead.
Jesuit guard Aiden Williams, who had a rough shooting night for the Crusaders, dropped two consecutive three-pointers from the left corner to put his team in the lead with 2:16 to go.
Lots of teams have collapsed at this point, but the Lakers were undisturbed by the new drama. McKinney drove the key, then dished out to Angle behind the three-point line on the left side. Angle had been harassed all night by Crusader defenders, but he was wide open for a clean three-ball that tied the game at 49.
“I just had to trust the team and the guys,” Cho said. “I knew they’d find a shot for Josh. That was a huge three.”
The Lakers needed one more hero, and it turned out to be a rusty Laker footballer, Brandon Roberts. He’s still getting his basketball legs back after the school’s state football championship run, but he had them in the last minute.
Roberts broke the tie with a layup, then went defensive to save his team. The worst-kept secret in the county was that the Crusaders would give the ball to Bieker, and he took off on a drive from the top of the key. Roberts left his man to step in front of him and take the charge.
McKinney’s layup with 36 seconds left put the Lakers up by four, but Bieker came right back with a jumper from the key seen seconds later and the pressure was still on.
Laker junior Casey Graver missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21.6 seconds left; the Crusaders got the rebound and called for time.
The idea was to bring Bieker down the key again, and with seven seconds left, here he came. And there was Roberts — again — to take the charge with four seconds to go.
“I was on the back side denying when I saw him coming,” Roberts said of the first charge. “After I got that first one I was looking for another one because I knew he was a driver. I just tried to get in front of him.”
Jesuit got the ball one last time after a missed inbounds pass, and the Crusaders had one last shot. They looped Bieker into the key and lobbed the ball in, but McKinney skied to steal it and save the game.
Cho was grateful for Roberts’ effort in the clutch.
“He knows what it feels like to win a championship,” he said. “He made a couple of championship plays to save us. He’s still a little rusty, but he’s going to be very special for us.
“I was very pleased (with the team). We weathered a storm in that fourth quarter when they went up by three with those back-to-back three-pointers.”
He also singled out McKinney, who was open often when the Crusaders ran at Angle.
“It was clear to us that they were trying to take Josh Angle away from us,” he said. “McKinney ending up with 21 points and going to the basket is certainly a good second option to have.”
Bieker led everybody with 23 points.