By WADE EVANSON/PAMPLIN MEDIA
PORTLAND -- In a game featuring two of the three boys teams tied atop the Metro League standings, it was host Jesuit that put it all together in a 74-67 win over crosstown rival Beaverton on Tuesday night.
The No. 9 Crusaders -- led by Isaiah Crane’s 24 points and five rebounds -- took a lead in the back half of the first quarter and never looked back, building an edge as big as 14 points, then hanging on as the No. 4 Beavers went small and nearly pressured their way to a win before ultimately running out of time.
With the win, Jesuit (11-7, 5-1) stands alone in first place ahead of Beaverton (13-6, 4-2), No. 10 Southridge (14-4, 4-2) and No. 6 Mountainside (12-6), which lost 49-47 at Westview on Tuesday.
Despite the late meltdown, Jesuit head coach Gene Potter was impressed with his team’s performance and applauded their effort to do what they haven’t necessarily done with regularity all season -- move the ball.
“I thought we played great,” Potter said. “It was one of our better efforts offensively when it came to spreading the floor and doing the things we need to do to be competitive against a really good team.”
That movement led to a variety of looks on the offensive end. When it wasn’t Crane getting into the lane it was Dashawn Gaston doing similar. If it wasn’t Henry Smith knocking down a big three, it was Nico Rafalovich getting rebounds and put-backs in the paint. And quite often it was Cade Collins, who scored 18 points on four three-pointers, a handful of lay-ins, and one very big dunk.
With Beaverton looking for a final shot, trailing 45-37 and the clock ticking down on the end of the third quarter, Collins picked Beavers guard Jalen Childs near midcourt and ended the quarter with a one-handed throwdown to put Jesuit ahead by 10.
Potter said he used Collins -- who’s normally a starter -- off the bench tonight due to a smaller rotation, and he had nothing but good things to say about the senior’s contribution on the offensive end.
“He did some really nice things for us tonight and was more aggressive offensively, just catching and shooting, and attacking the basket,” the Jesuit coach said. “We had a shorter rotation tonight because we knew how competitive the game was going to be, but he did a great job coming off the bench for us tonight.”
The coach also pointed to Crane as a key contributor for the Crusaders, citing his ability to finish as well as distribute the basketball.
“Against their pressure for the most part he took pretty good care of the ball, and when he didn’t it was because his teammates kind of left him hanging out to dry a bit,” Potter said. “But he found open teammates, attacked the basket and finished well. Just an outstanding game.”
To the contrary, Beaverton just had a hard time getting started. Similar to their loss at Mountainside a couple of weeks prior, the Beavers were sluggish to begin and saw that relative lethargy put them in a 12-point hole at the half. Beaverton head coach Andrew Vancil had a hard time putting a finger on the cause of such, but did say they’ll likely be making some adjustments going forward.
“Our kids were just out of character early,” Vancil said. “I saw it at Mountainside and saw it here. On the road, big game, we just haven’t come out and played our best the first eight minutes. So, our kids and our coaches, we all need to make adjustments and we’re going to make adjustments moving forward and we’ll learn from it.”
They made one of those adjustments at the half when they sat 6-foot-11 center Chance Winter and turned to a smaller, quicker lineup, and chose to pressure the Crusaders end to end. Jesuit didn’t handle the pressure particularly well and the turnovers that resulted from it allowed the Beavers to pull within five points in the game’s final two minutes.
“We haven’t seen that very much,” Potter said. “We practice for it, but it’s different when you’re doing it in practice opposed to when you’re doing it against one of the best teams in the state.”
Childs, who finished with 18 points, along with Brady Rice who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half were the catalysts of the Beaverton comeback, attacking the rim off the dribble and leading the visiting Beavers in transition. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, but it was a potential sign of what may be to come when these same two teams meet again to end the regular season on Feb. 24 at Beaverton.
“We played them in the summer a couple of times and played them better when we played small,” Vancil said. “The way they run their motion, they run a lot of clock and it’s hard to get possessions to make a comeback, so we went small and sped it up and it worked. We get them at home the second time around and it’ll be our job to take care of business.”
This time however it was Jesuit’s turn to be on the winning end, and it was a big win. But Potter downplayed the game’s level of importance, while at the same time acknowledging it -- kind of.
“They’re all big games anymore with the RPI, and they all count the same,” he said. “But obviously when you’re playing one of the best teams in the state you try to give them you best shot, and we did that tonight.”
Jesuit scorers included: Crane 24, Collins 18, Smith 13, Rafalovich 7, Patrick Kelley 6, Gaston 6.
Beaverton scorers included: Childs 18, Brady Rice 18, Max Elmgren 11, Mason Shank 6, Aidan Rice 6, Winter 4, Hunter Borter 4.