The Crusaders power past the 11-time state champions and into the state title contest
by: Miles Vance HAMMERED — Jesuit’s Elizabeth Brenner takes a foul to the head from Oregon City’s Johanna Paine on Friday.

PORTLAND - If you play girls basketball at Oregon's highest level, you know that the road to the state championship will likely run through Oregon City.

And that was the case for Jesuit in Friday's Class 6A state tournament semifinals. The Metro League champion Crusaders, who lost the 2003 state title game to the Pioneers, ran headlong into the 11-time champions on Friday night, but this time, Jesuit just ran right over Oregon City.

The Crusaders, led by Elizabeth Brenner's 23 points and 10 rebounds, and 17 points from Jean Parker, led by nine points after one quarter, extended that to 15 points in the second, to 19 in the third, and rolled to a 72-61 victory at the Rose Garden. The win lifted Jesuit's record to 26-1, while Oregon City - the Three Rivers League runner-up - fell to 23-5.

'Oregon City really fought and they played a great game, but our defense was there,' said Brenner, who knocked down 7-of-8 shots from the field and hit 9-of-10 free throws. 'We knew we really needed to step up our defense to have a chance today and we really did that.'

'They played a great game and they fought so hard,' added Parker, who was only 4-for-13 from the field, though all four of her 'makes' were three-pointers. 'It was really fun to play them. We just really wanted to play them and prove ourselves, that we could go up against anybody in the state.'

Jesuit proved just that on Friday, taking the lead for good when Brenner took a pass from fellow senior Claire Stach and scored inside to make it 9-7 with 4 minutes, 31 seconds to go in the opening quarter.

Brenner's hoop sparked a 13-4 Jesuit run that extended the Crusaders' advantage to 20-11 at the end of the frame and included a Parker three-pointer, a Jackie Ritacco jumpshot, a Brenner free throw, a 'three' by Louise Nistler and a Brenner hoop at the end of the fast break with just 26 seconds to go in the period.

The Crusaders kept the heat on in the second quarter too, opening that period with an 8-2 run highlighted by back-to-back Parker 'threes' in a 33-second span that took their lead to 28-13 with 4:55 left before the half.

The Pioneers cut the gap to 31-21 when Jordy Klebaum converted a three-point play with 2:09 to go before the half, but Jesuit came back with five straight points - three on Claire Stach foul shots - and took a 36-23 lead into the break.

The Pioneers got no closer than 12 points in the third quarter - at 45-33 when Johanna Paine hit two free throws with 3:18 to go in the period - and Jesuit answered with a 7-1 run powered by another Nistler 'three' and 5-of-6 free throws to keep OC down by 55-40 entering the fourth.

The Crusader lead peaked at 20 points - the last time at 66-46 when Brenner took a Tasha Wilkins pass and scored on the break with 4:37 left in the game - before the Pioneers cut the deficit to 11 in the remaining minutes.

For the game, Jesuit held OC to 44 percent shooting from the field (including a 5-of-13 effort from three-point range) and forced 20 turnovers, while making 52 percent of their shots and committing 15 turnovers.

'The defense was awesome,' Brenner said. 'Nothing came easy. No easy shots at all. We knew that was a huge part if we were going to get that 'W.''

'We just really wanted to play good defense, not let their shooters get shots off because they could kill us on that,' Parker added. 'We just had to play solid defense and not foul and stay in front of them.'

Rachel Mendelsohn added 12 points, two steals and two assists in the win, while Stach added seven points, four assists and three steals. Aly Holterhoff led OC with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Paine added 12 points and Klebaum 11.