Crusaders stun Southridge with second half comeback
Just when it seemed like Southridge was going to run away and hide in the hunt for the Metro League championship, Jesuit reintroduced itself as that pesky fly in the ointment capable of dashing title hopes.
As if the Crusaders were really going anywhere in the first place.
Trailing 31-14 early in the third quarter after a ramshackle first half that saw Southridge control both ends of the floor with an ironclad fist, Jesuit rediscovered its resolve. Joe Wall and Aiden Williams found the range from deep. Matt Lang attacked the rim at will. Stops led to defensive boards and early offense. Southridge, following a ferocious offensive start, went cold.
Suddenly a game that felt distant for a half, was there for the taking. The Skyhawks' big lead evaporated as Jesuit went on a 9-0 run to claim its first advantage of the game at 41-39 late in the fourth.
Lang barreled inside for a remarkable and-one three-point play with 1:44 to go in the fourth that gave Jesuit a 44-41 advantage. And though Southridge had multiple opportunities to either tie the game or win it down the stretch, when crunch time came around, it was the Crusaders who executed and came up clutch, as they have so many times in the past, closing out a 46-43 win at Jesuit High on Friday night in front a juiced up, packed Knight Center.
"I think we just had more heart than them in the end," Lang said. "(Williams) made big-time shots. (Wall) hit some big-time shots. We got the crowd into it a little bit and they really fueled us late in the game. Everyone got riled up, our bench got into it and that led into the big momentum swing."
Jesuit, with head coach Gene Potter patrolling the sideline and a stockpile of knockdown shooters still on the roster, can never be counted out. At 3-1 in Metro, Jesuit, Westview, Southridge (4-1) are all tied for first place in league. Jesuit plays Westview on Wednesday. Southridge has a bye and doesn't play again until next Friday against Aloha.
"We know how to stick together and we believe in ourselves," Wall said. "We know we can play with teams like that. We did the little things in the second half, the things that Potter wanted us to do."
Southridge led by as much as 18 points in the first half and looked for all intents and purposes to be well on their way to a boatracing on the road. Brock Henry was red-hot from deep. Bo Quinlan and Zach Galvin took turns burying threes and making silky smooth plays off the dribble. Kyle Mabray was big off the bench, notching a drive-and-kick assist, stepping in front of Lang to take a charge and hopping into the lane for two as Southridge led 29-14 at the half.
But as the second half unfolded, the Skyhawks' scorching shooting subsided. Southridge missed eight shots from inside the paint in the final two quarters, five of which came in the fourth and didn't hit a single three in the second half. The defense that switched everything with smarts and hustle in the first half, cracked a bit as the Crusaders kept chipping away. Jesuit buttoned down the defensive boards, holding Southridge to one shot for most of the second half and executed on offense.
"We had them on the ropes for the first three quarters," Southridge junior Kade Hustler said. "We kind of backed off on our defense. We didn't communicate as well. We got disconnected in the fourth quarter. We came out strong and had a good start, but we have to finish games."
For a program in search of its first Metro title in school history and hadn't lost to an Oregon opponent to this point in the season, Southridge absorbed a stiff learning lesson about life as the prohibitive league favorite. Every team is gunning for them, including a Crusader team coming off a 20-point loss to Beaverton on Tuesday.
"It was a good test for us," Hustler said. "That was our first real challenge in the Metro League and we'll bounce back when get them at our place."
Lang, a renowned outside shooter who's played three years on varsity level, couldn't get his jumpers to drop, so he made a concerted effort to drive the ball to the basket. And with Southridge giving him open left-handed driving lanes, the southpaw knifed into the teeth of the Skyhawk defense, absorbed a hit inside the lane and propelled a prayer toward the rim that hit the back rim and dropped. The senior, who scored all of his game-high 17 points in the paint or at the free throw line, polished off the and-one three-point play to give Jesuit the 44-41 edge.
"I knew I was going to draw the foul, but I didn't think I was going to make it, so I flipped it up and it went in," Lang said. "It was a huge shot in the game and really fueled us. It was fun. Last year I didn't really get the opportunity to drive because we had Chuka (Mekkam) and Cameron (Parker), so I would space the floor for them. But I've been working on driving and finishing through contact."
Lang's old-fashioned three-point play was the only start of a wild final 90 seconds or so of the fourth. On the ensuing possession, Hustler turned down a midrange jumper, bounced inside and finished while drawing the foul. Hustler's subsequent free throw spun out, yet Filip Fullerton grabbed the offensive board, but just barely missed the putback as Jesuit clung to a 44-43 lead. As Southridge tried to force a turnover and Jesuit played keep away for a good 30 seconds, shielding the ball away from the handsy Hawks, Wall slipped and fell to the floor with 21 seconds left but had the wherewithal to call timeout as Southridge tried to rip the ball free with 21 seconds to go.
Lang was fouled with 15.7 seconds left but missed the front end of the one-and-one scenario at the free throw line as Quinlan came down with the defensive board. Quinlan — after Southridge elected to play it out and not call time — drove baseline but was walled off by Justin Bieker and the Crusader helpside defense and stepped on the end line to give the ball back to Jesuit with 3.1 seconds left.
"I feel like if we play as hard and as scrappy as we did tonight we can beat a lot of people," Lang said. "We have to play this way every night if we want to win. We're not going to out-athletic teams or out-talent them, so we have to work hard, be scrappy, play tough defense, be fundamental, make shots, box out. That's what we did in the second half."
Williams, facing a pressure-packed one-and-one, calmly made two free throws at the charity stripe to extend Jesuit's lead to 46-43 with 2.1 seconds to go. And Quinlan's following half-court heave came up shy.
The last minute and a half was the Crusaders' exclamation point on a comeback that seemed improbable in the third quarter. The Skyhawks shut down Jesuit's motion offense, switching perimeter screens, denying the wing, making Jesuit go one-on-one which goes against everything the Crusaders want to achieve offensively. When Jesuit tried to penetrate, Southridge sat down in their defensive stances, slid, got chest to chest with the attacker and forced the Crusaders into tough, low percentage shots.
But the second half was a truly different tale. Wall and Williams both hit a pair of threes and sophomore Matthew Levis laced another triple in the third quarter as Crusaders doubled their first-half point total in the third quarter alone. Lang was able to initiate the offense off the dribble with better success, which set off a chain of extra passes and enhanced three-point casts for Wall and Williams.
"We didn't stay attached to their good shooters and they got the looks that they wanted," Hustler said.
Williams scurried off a dribble handoff with Wall and drilled a trey that brought Jesuit within 33-28 in the third.
"We trust each other and know we're gonna knock down open looks because we have a bunch of good shooters on this team," Wall said. "We knew we were still in the game and felt confident at halftime."
Southridge actually absorbed Jesuit's counterpunch and responded well. Hustler skied for an offensive board and softly laid the ball off the glass and Bradley Bickler banked home a layup off a Fullerton jump pass to extend Southridge's lead to 39-28.
But in the fourth Lang bulled inside for two and then deftly cut along the baseline and reversed home a seeing eye backdoor pass from Williams to cut Southridge's lead to a single possession at 39-36 with 5:40 to play. Wall made the game-tying from the right wing after a Bieker find. And Bieker used a hesitation dribble to get to the rim for the go-ahead score, 41-39.
Williams finished the game with 11 points and Wall added 8 while Levis chipped in 5. Henry led Southridge with 12 points and Galvin added 10. Quinlan and Fullerton each had 5.