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Crusaders fall just short at Oregon City

Jesuit rips through Barlow, then falls to OC's girls 56-51
by: MILES VANCE, CLASH — Jesuit senior Julianne Brands (right) battles Barlow’s Jackie Whaley during the Crusaders’ win on Feb. 27.

Say this at least about the Jesuit girls basketball team - the Crusaders went down with all guns blazing.

After finishing second in the Metro League, Jesuit opened the state playoffs with a 58-34 blowout victory over Barlow on Feb. 27, then saw their season end in a competitive 56-51 loss at Oregon City on Saturday.

Oregon City 56, Jesuit 51

OREGON CITY -Before Saturday's state playoff game with perennial girls basketball power Oregon City, Jesuit coach Mike McNeal said that he and a number of players on his team were under the weather.

But you wouldn't have known it by the way the Crusaders played, as they took the third-ranked Pioneers down to the wire before losing 56-51 at Oregon City High School.

The win gave the Three Rivers League champion Pioneers (21-3) a 23rd consecutive trip to the state tournament, while the loss ended an up-and-down season for the Crusaders at 15-12.

'I thought Jesuit gave it their best,' said Oregon City junior post Calli Jackson. 'They played hard. They did a great job keeping it close to the end.'

Jackson (13 points) was among four Oregon City players who reached double figures in scoring, but she and her teammates had their hands full in trying to slow Jesuit freshman post Elizabeth Brenner.

Brenner was dominant on the inside, where she scored a game- and career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and hauled down most of her team's rebounds.

'I just went out and played as hard as I could because I knew it could be our last game,' Brenner said.

'She surprised us,' said Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf. 'We made some adjustments in the second half. We collapsed on her every time she touched the ball, and she had a tougher time.'

Thanks to Brenner's inspired play, the Crusaders trailed just 29-28 at halftime.

The Pioneers upped their intensity and forged an eight-point lead in the third period, but the Crusaders kept things close.

When Brenner converted a three-point play near the midpoint of the fourth quarter, it was a three-point game.

But the Pioneers ran an effective delay in the final period, and they made their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

The Pioneer coach had his team with a 38-20 advantage in rebounding, including 19 at the offensive end of the floor. The Crusaders stayed in the game with sharper shooting. They cashed in on 21-of-39 shots from the floor, while the Pioneers were 23-of-55. Brenner was the only Jesuit player to reach double figures.

Jesuit 58, Barlow 34

BEAVERTON - Hot on the heels of its second-place finish in the Metro League, the Jesuit girls basketball team kept right on rolling in its Class 6A state playoff opener.

The Crusaders, after a first-half struggle, used a 39-20 second-half scoring edge to drop Barlow 58-34 at Jesuit High School last Wednesday and advance to face Oregon City on Saturday (see the accompanying story for more on that game). The win lifted Jesuit's record to 15-11 while Barlow, the fifth-place finisher from the Mt. Hood Conference, ended its season at 10-14.

'They came out really fired up and we got away from our game plan a little bit, but in the second half we got back to it and their confidence died down a little bit,' said Jesuit senior Meaghan White, who led her team with 12 points. 'They tried to slow it down the first half, but the second half we just figured out ways to play our game and that helped us a lot.'

'We came out a little shaky but we picked it up in the second half,' added junior guard Jenna Dixon, who finished with nine points against the Bruins. 'They tried to slow us down by going into a zone, but we just picked it up and played our game.'

After Jesuit blasted out to a 6-0 lead in the game's first minute, the Bruins clamped down their defense, held the Crusaders to just two points in the quarter's remaining seven minutes and took a 9-8 lead at the end of the opening frame. Barlow freshman Alicia Scafidi, who led all scorers with 15 points, had four points in that opening quarter and teammate Aimee Oretger added a three-pointer.

The Bruins held their lead until Jesuit's Sarah Griffin tied the game at 11-11 on two free throws with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the second quarter, then saw the Crusaders push ahead when Griffin stole the ensuing inbounds pass and set up Dixon's layin.

Still, Barlow didn't go away immediately. Elke Neuenschwander and McKenzie McNelly both hit in the second quarter and kept their team within 19-14 at the half.

Jesuit extended its lead to 26-16 when Carly Wellington scored on the fast break with 3:32 to go in the third quarter, then closed the period with a 5-1 run (that included three points from Dixon) to push ahead 36-22.

And the Crusaders really hit the accelerator in the fourth quarter, using a 9-1 run early in the period to put the game out of reach at 45-26 on Samantha Nelson's foul shot with 4:41 remaining.

The Crusaders used a big advantage at the foul line to fuel their victory, knocking down 26-of-33 at the line while Barlow made just 11-of-21. Jesuit also forced 24 Bruin turnovers while committing 16 of their own.

The Crusaders hit 15-of-43 shots (including two 'threes'), with Julianne Brands adding seven and Jen Monk and Elizabeth Brenner six each. Scafidi hit 5-of-9 shots from the floor and 5-of-9 foul shots in the loss, while Neuenschwander added six points. As a team, Barlow hit 11-of-33 shots from the floor (including one three-pointer).