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by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior guard Kate Anderson scored 17 points for the Crusaders who only trailed 31-28 at halftime against West Linn.

The apparent wherewithal and proficiency are there to be a Metro League contender.

Teams that stay within three points of West Linn —a state playoff squad that returns five starters — don’t get away with a first half of good fortune without having a glut of offensive talent and defensive prowess.

The Jesuit girls’ basketball team will be in the race for the Metro League title until the tape, along with Westview and Beaverton.

However, the Crusaders know they’ll have to put two halves of great basketball together, if they intend on tugging at the Wildcats’ and Beavers’ grip on the conference.

An unlucky and sporadically grimy third quarter nullified what was a competitive first half for Jesuit against West Linn in a, 62-43, defeat on Monday.

Trailing just 31-28 at halftime, it took nearly seven minutes for the Crusaders to score their first points of the third quarter, when junior guard Connie Parker swished two free throws.

By then, the Lions had lassoed the game into their dominion, scoring the first 12 points of the third to take a powerful, 43-30, lead. Sophomore guard Kate Anderson scored on an offensive rebound, and Parker banked in a three off the window at the buzzer to pull Jesuit within 46-35 at the end of the third.

“We saw that we have it in us in the first half,” said sophomore wing Kory Oleson. “We just have to work hard in practice, so we can finish the second halves.”

“You have to lean on your team,” added sophomore wing Ellie Sears. “You have to look for support and give them support too because their shots aren’t falling either. Against tough teams like this, you get to see what you need to work on as a team and what you’re excelling at.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior guard Connie Parker scored eight points including two threes for the Crusaders versus West Linn.

The Crusaders simply couldn’t buy a basket coming out of the locker at halftime. Their shots rimmed in and out, sometimes hitting the glass softly yet not dropping in the cotton.

Jesuit’s effort in getting its offense going was unmistakable. Its tirelessness on the boards fetched second chances too. It just seemed like there was an invisible lid on top of the hoop, blocking Jesuit’s shots time after time in the conclusive third.

“It’s frustrating, but you have to keep positive with your teammates,” said Oleson. “I think we got better at working through adversity. We have to finish stronger next time, but we got to play a good, tough team that can prepare us for the rest of the year.”

“Partially, we had a bad streak of finishing, but at the same time, we were a little disorganized,” added senior guard Alexis Mendelsohn. “We think if we improve that and took away the disorganization, then we could’ve had this game.”

The contest certainly was contentious in the first half. Down 25-17 with 4:43 left in the second quarter, Jesuit jumpstarted its perimeter defense by exerting the Lions’ entry passes to West Linn post Morgan Haskin and hawking West Linn’s guards.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit sophomore guard Ellie Sears drives baseline in the first quarter of the Crusaders loss to West Linn.

Oleson tried to get into Haskin’s body before she got the ball to push out above the block. And, if Haskin caught the ball deep in the post, Oleson attempted to cut her off on the baseline on the hook. With Alzena Henry — Jesuit’s tallest player— sitting out, the burden of holding Haskin fell on Oleson and Lauren Glick, both of whom did an admirable job of stopping the Lion center.

“We had good effort, and we had to focus,” said Sears.

Oleson scored seven points in the second quarter, and nine in the first half. The smooth-handling Anderson tallied 11 first half points including a snatch-and-score that resulted in a lefty layup that cut West Linn’s deficit to 27-26. Oleson’s driving hoop from the right wing got Jesuit within 29-28 with 28 seconds left.

“I think we learned if we keep attacking and spreading out the offense, then we can get open shots,” said Parker. “On defense, if we’re organized, know who the shooters are and when to help, then we’ll get more stops on defense.”

Parker said Jesuit did a good job of moving the ball and continuously attacking the hoop, which distorted West Linn’s defense. With the damage came unguarded shots from the perimeter and vulnerable alleyways to onrush from the wings. Jesuit frequently got the ball out in transition where its best athletes like Anderson, Sears and Oleson thrived and cut into West Linn’s advantage.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit point guard Lexi Becker brings the ball up court against West Linn in the second quarter.

“The continuous attack and faster-paced game works well for us,” said Parker. “Our team is all smaller and faster so it fits us.”

West Linn couldn’t impede Anderson from forcefully spinning and airlifting her 5-foot-8 frame into the key. And, the all-league guard garnered help from Parker (eight points) and Sears (two points, three steals and an assist).

“We had more energy in the first half,” said Mendelsohn. “Then, we came out in the second half and realized we had to match their level of energy.”

The Lions scored four quick points to start the fourth, but Glick answered with an offensive rebound and finish. Later in the fourth, Anderson sized up her defender with a shimmy hesitation, then violently twirled into the lane for a teardrop off the window. The sophomore guard led Jesuit with 17 points, but West Linn pulled away with a 10-2 run to put the game away.

“We have the potential,” said Sears. “We just have to figure out how to make it work, feed off of each other and learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, Kory’s a shooter and we need to hit her more when we see a big girl coming at her.”

Jesuit finishes its preseason with a non-league contest at home against Lincoln before an 11-day layoff that stops when the Crusaders start their Metro League docket versus Southridge. The Crusaders allege there isn’t a huge gap between themselves, Westview, and Beaverton.

The supposed separation in the league comes from the fact the Wildcats and Beavers have been to the state tournament and they’ve both been arguably better so far this season.

Mendelsohn and the rest of the young Crusaders insist they won’t be cast aside.

“We’re definitely title contenders for Metro,” said Mendelsohn. “They’re a few good teams that will be competitive with us. But, at the same time, if we play the way we played in that first half, and we improve on third quarter faults, we can come out and win Metro.”

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