by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior guard Reid Bucy dribbles into the paint in the second quarter of the Crusaders' loss to Bishop Gorman on Friday.

Believe the Bishop Gorman hype.

Stacked with NBA-sized big men who shake the backboard with rim-rattling slams, elite defenders, and smooth guards who can pour in points from the outside, the Gaels beat Jesuit, 51-36, in the second round of the Les Schwab Invitational on Saturday. Bishop Gorman gutted Jesuit not with flash-and-dash but solid fundamentals, great coaching and a 3-2 zone that’s rooted in discipline and self-control

Basically, the Gales were Jesuit on stilts, a squad that soared to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter with a trio of crowd-pleasing dunks and led 31-14 at halftime. The Crusaders first points of the contest came off two Reid Bucy free throws with 3:57 to go in the first. Bucy and Dan Nelson added threes in the first quarter that helped Jesuit pull within 17-10.

To the Crusaders, who won’t face a team of Bishop Gorman’s caliber the rest of the year in 6A, the loss was more of anomaly, a blip on the radar screen. The Gaels took Jesuit out of what it does best, but that didn’t deter the Crusaders at all.

“We had stuff we didn’t do in that game that we practice every day,” said senior guard Jack Bell. “There’s definitely things we can take from that game and take to the rest of the regular season. Our goal isn’t to win today, but our goal is to win at the end of the season, get in that state tournament and win a state championship. We’re just going to keep fighting and keep learning.”

“They were a very good team,” added senior guard Jordan Blue. “Very athletic, very lengthy. We didn’t know how to deal with them at first, but we came up in the end with some good plays.”

Bishop Gorman’s shortest starter was 6-foot-4, and the Gaels’ gifted height was put to good use with a 3-2 zone that was problematic and complex to solve for Jesuit. With 6-foot-10 Chase Jeter and 7-foot Stephen Zimmerman anchoring the backline of the zone, altering the Crusaders’ looks in the paint or swatting them into the seats, the Gaels were able to gamble and play aggressively with their three Division One guards at the top of the defense.

Bell said Jesuit was stagnant in the first half, walking around the floor without a true purpose instead of shuttling the ball around the perimeter and aggressively seeking holes in the 3-2 zone.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior forward Jack Nadelhoffer hoists a three-pointer jumper in the second quarter of the Crusaders' loss to Bishop Gorman.

“We didn’t really know where to go with the ball,” said Bell. “Eventually, we figured it out, but it was just a little bit too little, too late. Fortunately, we did cut the deficit a little bit at the end, so the score didn’t look too lopsided. I just wish we could’ve got that going in the first and second quarter, because it could’ve been a different game.”

The Gaels’ all-extensive zone curtailed the Crusaders’ offense with never-ending arms and legs that encompassed the entire floor and made it feel like there were two extra defenders on the court. Pestering the passing lanes with active hands and intertwined communication, the fifth-ranked team in the nation forced Jesuit to move the ball from side to side while sealing off the high post and short corners — the usual soft spots in a zone defense. There were simply no holes, no openings to bounce passes to, no outlets to hit.

There were possessions where Jesuit could only either hold the ball or aimlessly pass it around the perimeter for a minute at a time until Bishop Gorman ratcheted up the pressure and forced a turnover, or the Crusaders casted a guarded shot from the perimeter.

“It took us too long to find a way to get past those gaps,” said Blue. “When we did find them, we didn’t across or around the zone and get shots up.”

Senior forward Marco Urbina banked in a shot from the elbow after a pass from Ryan Bay for the Crusaders’ first hoops of the second quarter with 3:50 to go. Bay wheeled into the lane right at Zimmerman’s chest, came to a jump stop, ball faked the big guy, and banked in the orange for two to make it 28-14. Yet, Jesuit couldn’t muster much dribble penetration that might’ve helped solve the head-scratching defense.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior guard Ryan Bay looks for space against Bishop Gorman's 3-2 zone defense in the second quarter of the Crusaders' loss to the Gaels on Saturday. Bay finished with five points and four assists.

“They came out ready to play, and we didn’t,” said Bell. “But, credit goes to them. They’re a great team. We had some turnovers early on where we just couldn’t handle their length in their zone. We had a tough time penetrating it, but we’ll come back ready to play.”

Gene Potter stressed to his team to keep competing no matter how big the deficit ballooned in the fourth, and the Crusaders carried out their head coach’s orders. Bell’s three from the right corner, and Bay’s triple from the right wing, cut Jesuit’s shortage to 51-36 with 35 seconds remaining.

Bell finished with six points and Bay had five to accompany four assists.

“The one thing the whole team stresses is we’re a family,” said Blue. “No matter what happens, we always keep competing to make our team look good. This isn’t a pass or fail situation for us. It’s a lesson learned and now we can use this as an opportunity to get better.”

“It’s good how we kept fighting,” added Urbina. “We didn’t want to give up, definitely. We just wanted to go out with a bang. It’s definitely a learning experience. We’ll get back at it and keep working hard in practice.”

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