Jesuit boys basketball crushes Central, advances to 6A semis
The hoods on the back of Central Catholic's warmup shirts were pulled up and over the top of each player's head on the Chiles Center bench, as Jesuit head coach Gene Potter emptied his bench with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
In the second half of the Class 6A quarterfinals on March 6, Jesuit completely outplayed, outhustled and outmanned a Central team some believed was blessed with enough talent to make the title game. However, the downtrodden Rams should take heart. Central was just the latest crew to get hustled by the Billy Hoyle lookalike Crusaders.
Jesuit shot a blistering 70.6 percent from the field in the second half and held normally explosive Central to just five second half field goals to run away with a 64-38 rout win. No. 4 Jesuit (21-6 overall) will face No. 1 Lake Oswego in the 6A semifinals on Friday at 1:30 p.m. back at the Chiles Center.
"Coach Potter says every possession needs to be a championship possession," Jesuit senior Braden Rice said. "We made the best play for each other and trusted one another."
It was a clinical second half dissection on the Crusaders' behalf. Four players scored in double figures, led by senior Will Sheaffer, who piled up career-high 22 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Rice (four offensive boards, four points), Aiden Williams (13 points, 6 rebounds), Justin Bieker (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Matthew Levis (11 points, 3 steals) led a united, varied offensive attack that took advantage of Central's porous defense, particularly in the half court. Jesuit broke the Rams down off the dribble seemingly at will. Whether it was Williams, Sheaffer, Levis or Bieker, the Crusaders spread the court and were able to pierce the lane via the dribble drive, get into the painted area and either make a play for themselves or a teammate cutting to the rim. Trailing 24-23 at the half, Jesuit jumped Central in the third quarter, scoring on four straight trips down the floor to reclaim a 31-24 lead with 4:30 to go in the period. Central converted an and-one to close within 35-27, but Bieker found Levis for a backdoor layup, then Rice ripped down an offensive board along the baseline, waited for the key to part and fired a pass to a slicing Levis for another hoop. Bieker's two free throws gave Jesuit a 43-30 lead going into the third.
Central simply couldn't keep Jesuit in front of them in the second half. The Crusaders' off the bounce moves won't land them on any Ball Is Life mixtape any time soon. But Jesuit was quick, decisive and powerful, going at the Rams' half-hearted closeouts with force and speed, utilizing its underrated athleticism to its wholehearted advantage. Levis, Bieker and Rice finished around the basket with sudden authority, jumping quicker and higher toward the rim than Central most likely expected. In the fourth, Jesuit's lead swelled into the 20-point range as the Rams' once bouncy swagger deteriorated and the contest became a layup line for the Crusaders. All five of Jesuit's starters scored in the paint in the fourth, highlighted by a Williams' lefty layup where nobody was within five feet of him.
"I don't think (Central) knew we were going to come at them that hard," Rice said. "In practice, we were ready with our one-on-one moves and being strong with the ball. We have some great individual scorers and have trust in one another."
The percolating offensive output was impressive as Jesuit ended the game shooting 55.5% from the floor. But it was the defensive aptitude in the second half that the valiant Crusaders took the most heart in. Central focused its offensive effort on getting the ball to 6-foot-8 SataleVior Ayollola, who had a seven-inch height advantage over Rice, his primary defender. But every time the big Ram caught the ball on the right or left block, Jesuit sent two guards to harass Ayollola and get the rock out of his hands. When Central moved the ball around the perimeter, Jesuit traced it through the air and sprinted out to the uncovered men, contested every outside shot and forced drives to the middle where help awaited.
Central, after shooting at respectable 45.8% clip in the first half, was just 5-18 in the second half thanks in larger part to a Crusader defense that pulled out the clamps. Ayollola shot 7-9 and had 16 points. But the rest of the Rams couldn't find a rhythm, which Jesuit counted on going into the contest. And for a difference maker like Ayollya, nine field goals if far too few. Credit Jesuit, whose mission was to left the rest of the Rams beat them either attacking the cup or making perimeter looks. They didn't, hence the second half spiral.
"(Ayollola) is probably the biggest guy I've gone against all year, but it was fun banging with him," Rice said. "We worked on doubling him the whole week and rotating out of it in practice. Knowing our rotations and getting to the right spots was key for us. That's how we executed."
Levis locked up the perimeter, coming up with three pilfers and two taken charges. Levis and Sheaffer helped hold Central guard Isaiah Amato to just 1-9 shooting from the floor and three points. The Crusaders, who gave up a size advantage at every position, played with a controlled fury on defense, fighting for rebounds, chesting up the bigger Rams on drives, helping down when a guard tried to attack the lane.
"It comes from the defensive side," Rice said. "We got every 50-50 ball, every turnover and put our bodies into everyone. Every 50-50 ball had to be ours. Central has some great talent, but we brought it to them. Their heads were down early...and I took that as a compliment."
Jesuit split the season series 1-1 with Lake Oswego, losing at home in non-league play, but beat the Lakers at the Les Schwab Invitational. Lake Oswego pasted Oregon City in the 6A quarters, 69-30.
"We can't wait for Friday," Rice said. "LO might be our biggest rival. They're a great squad, but so are we. It's going to be a battle."
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