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Taking the first step at state

Jesuit isn't sharp, but wins and closes in on a 6A state tourney berth
by: MILES VANCE, SHOOT AND SCORE — Jesuit's Meaghan White rises up over Redmond’s Rae Keener to score two of her nine points during Jesuit’s 46-37 victory over the Panthers Tuesday night at Jesuit High School.

BEAVERTON - Jesuit's 46-37 win over Redmond in the first round of the Class 6A state girls basketball playoffs was, to be honest, not exactly a thing of beauty.

But it was indeed a win, and after battling past a healthy dose of postseason nerves - not to mention the Panthers' slow-down style - the Metro League champion Crusaders (19-6) were just happy to have the victory.

'We were nervous,' said senior point guard Caroline Lilley, who scored eight points, made six steals and handed out six assists. 'We were trying to play our game but we know it's single elimination and we know if we lose, we're done and so we were playing more not to lose than to win.'

'I thought Redmond did a really good job. I thought they were smart the way they were playing us,' said Jesuit coach Kathy Adelman Naro. 'They have a good team, but we were just playing not to lose and very nervous.'

Jesuit will now host Clackamas, a 49-34 winner over Grant Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a berth to the Class 6A state tournament on the line.

The Crusaders were in control most of the way Tuesday, leading 12-7 after the first quarter and 16-13 after a second period that included just 13 shots from the floor total between the two teams. But the Panthers (10-14), the fourth seeds from the Central Valley League, stuck with their game plan and continued to make inroads against Jesuit in the third quarter.

Redmond used an 8-0 run over a span of 2 minutes, 31 seconds of the third quarter to take its first lead since the first quarter at 22-19 on Bre Meulink's inside basket with 3:55 left in the period.

'They had a smart game plan,' said junior guard Julianne Brands. 'They knew they had to slow us down for a chance to beat us and I think that took us off guard a little bit.'

But Jesuit closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to reestablish control at 30-24. During that run, the Crusaders got a Brands three-pointer, a Meaghan White 'three,' a White free throw and then back-to-back backcourt steals and baskets by Lilley and Laura Nilsen in a 12-second burst at the end of the quarter.

'That was just like the peak for us,' Lilley said of her and Nilsen's steals and layins at the end of the third quarter. 'It changed the momentum of the game for us and gave us the momentum back. It's where we decided we were going to pick it up and take it to them and see if they could respond and they didn't have the response.'

'Thank goodness for that,' added Adelman Naro. 'I thought that run was very important. It got us life and it got us back into more of our groove.'

Redmond cut Jesuit's lead to five points twice early in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders used a three-point possession (Erin McDonnell scored inside and White added a foul shot) to push their edge back to 35-27 and slowly pulled away at the foul line despite making just 10-of-20 fourth-quarter attempts.

'It really took us until the second half to adjust and really pick up our defense and once we did that, they couldn't handle our pressure,' Brands said. 'Once we started playing more intense defense, the offense started to come.'

For the game, Jesuit made just 15-of-46 shots from the field (including several missed layins) and 12-of-25 foul shots but only turned the ball over seven times. Redmond shot 13-of-28 from the field, 10-of-20 from the line and turned the ball over 23 times.

Lauren Wilkins scored 10 for Jesuit in the win while White added nine. Briaunna King paced the Panthers with 12 points in the loss.