Jesuit drops the hammer on league foe Sunset, sets the table for a historic state run
by: Miles Vance TO THE HOOP — Jesuit senior Ryan Benson goes in to score against Sunset on Saturday.

BEAVERTON - Jesuit's boys basketball team is on a mission.

And the Crusaders, chasing an unprecedented third straight Oregon big-school state championship, weren't about to let Sunset get in the way on Friday night.

Jesuit, hosting the Apollos in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs with a 15th straight state tournament berth on the line, were anything but hospitable to Sunset.

The Crusaders blasted out to a 16-2 lead at the start of the game, led 20-5 at the end of the first quarter, 41-20 at the half, and 66-28 after three quarters before coasting home to win 82-43. The victory lifted the Metro League champion Crusaders' record to 23-2, and sent the Crusaders into the Class 6A state tournament. Jesuit faced Roseburg in the state quarterfinals yesterday (Wednesday) at the Rose Garden after the Valley Times' press deadline. With a win there, the Crusaders would play in the state semifinals against either Central Catholic or Lincoln at 3:15 p.m. Friday; with a loss in yesterday's opener, Jesuit would play again at 9 a.m. Friday. The tournament championship is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday night.

'The goal is to win another state championship,' said Jesuit senior guard Jack Grodahl, who scored a team-high 19 points in the win over Sunset. 'We have a tough road ahead of us, but we're playing pretty well right now. We'll see how we do.'

'It's for all the kids who graduated, for all our close friends,' added Jesuit senior post Kyle Milligan, who added three points, four assists and two steals against Sunset. 'We want to do it not only for us, but for them.'

Sunset, which tied for fourth in the Metro League, ended its year at 14-12, and knew the deck had been stacked against us on Friday night.

'It's just one of those nights where we came out with high energy, but they were just a step ahead of us,' said Sunset senior Dominique Ditlefsen, who led his team with 13 points. 'They're a great team.'

'It's tough playing the No. 1 team - Jesuit, they're really good,' added Sunset junior Joe McFerrin III, who added seven points in the loss. 'If we wouldn't have had to play Jesuit, I think we could have gone pretty far like last year. But it's tough playing another Metro team because the Metro League is probably the best.'

Jesuit was definitely 'the best' on Friday night. The Crusaders hit six of their first nine shots from the floor and raced out to that 16-2 lead, with Grodahl breaking free for eight quick points (including two three-pointers), sophomore Xavier Coleman scoring on consecutive possessions, and senior wing Jordan Akwenuke adding two more baskets, the second of those on a thunderous one-handed dunk set up by Milligan's steal near midcourt.

Sunset closed within 20-8 when Ditlefsen scored on a fast break and converted it into a three-point play 36 seconds in the second period, but the Apollos would get no closer. Jesuit outscored Sunset 21-15 in the quarter, pushed their lead to 21 points at halftime, then really put the game out of reach in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, Jesuit forged a 25-8 scoring edge that included eight more points from Grodahl and six

from senior post Kyle Wiltjer, who played his second strong game since returning from a broken foot that had sidelined him for a month.

For the game, Wiltjer racked up 15 points after hitting 5-of-9 shots from the floor (including one three-pointer) and 4-of-5 free throws.

'He's been practicing with us for a while, so he's in sync with everything we're doing,' Grodahl said.

Jesuit built its lead as high as 41 points late in the game and left no doubt that it should indeed be favored in the coming state tournament.

We have 'so many seniors. We all play together. We all know each other,' Milligan said. Moving 'on to the Rose Garden - that's what it's all about.'

Grodahl led the Crusaders with 19 points after hitting 6-of-10 shots from the field (including three 'threes') and four straight free throws, and Akwenuke had 13. Ditlefsen hit 5-of-11 shots from the floor and all three of his free throws, while teammate Mike Umscheid added nine points in the loss.

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