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Crusaders rout Roseburg 68-39

Jesuit races out to a 33-13 lead at halftime against the Indians and rolls to victory
by: Miles Vance OPEN INSIDE — Jesuit senior guard Riley Wiggins goes up to score inside in the Crusaders’ quarterfinal win over Roseburg at the Class 6A state tournament at the Rose Garden on March 9.

PORTLAND - In taking the first step toward what would eventually become a third straight Class 6A state championship, Jesuit's Crusaders left absolutely nothing to chance.

Facing Roseburg, the Southern Oregon Conference co-champion, in their Class 6A state tournament quarterfinal on March 9, the Crusaders showed just how ready they were for their title march.

Jesuit took control of the game in the first quarter, outscored the Indians by at least nine points in each of the first three periods, and cruised to a 68-39 victory at the Rose Garden. The win lifted Metro League champion Jesuit's record to 24-2, while Roseburg fell to 19-7.

'We knew coming into this tournament it wasn't going to be easy. They're a really good team,' said senior guard Ryan Benson, who finished with five points, two steals and two assists in the win. 'But in practice, we've been really focused all week.'

'Ever since we knew we'd be playing Roseburg, we went over the scouting report, studied film, went over the game plan and we played a lot smarter than we have,' said senior wing Jordan Akwenuke, who added seven points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal. 'We played hard, but I think playing smart is what helped us in the end.'

'I thought we defended really well,' added Jesuit coach Gene Potter. 'You give yourselves a chance at the state tournament if you defend like that.'

And boy oh boy - did the Crusaders ever defend. They held the Indians to just 28 percent shooting from the field (they hit just 11-of-40 shots) and also forced 11 turnovers, with Benson, Jack Grodahl and Riley Wiggins making two steals each.

Jesuit led just 11-6 after Roseburg's Micah Audiss hit a jumpshot in the final two minutes of the first period, but the Crusaders took off from there. Jesuit senior post Kyle Wiltjer knocked down a jump shot in the lane with 1 minute, 26 seconds left in the period, Wiggins knocked down two free throws, and Wiltjer rebounded a Grodahl miss and scored in the air in the final second of the frame to take a 17-6 lead.

Jesuit just about duplicated that performance in the second quarter, opening with a Grodahl three-pointer, taking on two more Grodahl 'threes' in less than a minute late in the second, and closing with four straight Wiltjer foul shots to lead 33-13 at the half.

'We had to do all the little things right, especially on defense,' Benson said. 'And Grodahl - that kid just doesn't miss.'

Jesuit tacked on a 6-0 run at the start of the third highlighted by two Akwenuke baskets to push its lead to 39-13, added three-pointers from Grodahl, Wiltjer and Khyan Rayner and carried a 50-21 edge into the fourth period.

After the game, Jesuit's players and coaches both acknowledged that it was their defense that played the biggest role in the win.

'We knew that (Tim Weber and Brad Seehawer) were their big scorers,' Akwenuke said. 'We knew we had to come out and play tough on them, and we did that and got the win.'

'With our length, we're able to chase shooters pretty hard on the perimeter,' Potter added. 'We tried to force them inside to make them shoot it over our bigs. It was just a good defensive team effort.'

Seehawer and Weber - the SOC Player of the Year - both went 1-for-8 from the field and combined for just 13 points in the loss. Grodahl led all scorers with 18 points after making 6-of-12 shots from the floor (including 5-of-8 'threes'), Wiltjer added 13 points and eight rebounds, and Wiggins came off the bench for 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.