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Crusaders clutchness at the line clips Panthers in quarters


Jesuit makes 8-10 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior forward Jack Nadelhoffer readies to fire from the outside in the fourth quarter against South Medford in the 6A state quaterfinals.

There wasn't a nervous quiver in Dan Nelson's gait as he walked to the free throw line with Jesuit's endangered state championship dreams in limbo.

Clinging to a 34-32 lead with just 1:23 remaining in the fourth quarter in the 6A quarterfinals against South Medford, the senior guard barely blinked when he turned his eyes to the rim and calmly nailed the front end of the one-and-one situation and, then swished the second attempt to go up 36-32.

Feeding off Nelson's steely nerves, Jesuit made 8-10 free throws in the final 1:23 of the fourth and, six when the Crusaders were in pressure-packed one-and-one scenarios. Along with the clutch shooting at the line, the Crusaders came up with the critical stops on defense when they had to have them in the final minute to pull out the 42-36 win over the Panthers.

“There was never a doubt,” said Nelson about his two free throws. “I just knew it had to go in and it did. I was at the free throw line earlier in the game and missed one. From there on I knew I was going to make it. Really, we won it from the free throw. We all just kind of stayed calm when we stepped up to the line and knocked 'em down like we should have.”

“We knew Dan was going to sink those two free throws because he's kind of clutch performer,” added junior forward Collin Landry. “Once we hit them, we just got into a rhythm, dug in on defense and got it done.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit small forward Collin Landry puts up a three-point shot in the third quarter of the Crusaders quarterfinal win over South Medford.

After Nelson gave Jesuit the four-point lead, Crusader power forward Henry Mondeaux used the principle of verticality to soundly challenge a South Medford shot at the rim, that clanked off the iron and into the hands of Reid Bucy. The junior guard hit both free throws to extend the lead to 38-32, then Jesuit's strong team defense press-ganged the Panthers into another miss in the paint.

“On defense we know we can trust each other all the time,” said Landry. “We always say we're a family on the court and outside the court. It comes down to us trusting the guy next to us on defense and knowing we're all going to work hard.”

Neither performed particularly well on the offensive end as Jesuit shot 30 percent from the floor and South Medford was held to 31.4 percent shooting. Jesuit started the game strong, getting out to a 24-15 halftime lead thanks to points from all eight of the Crusaders' rotation players. The contest slowed to a crawl in the second half when South Medford switched to a matchup zone that stalled Jesuit's motion offense and limited clean looks at the rim.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior point guard Reid Bucy readies to fire from the outside in the fourth quarter against South Medford in the 6A state quaterfinals.

Yet, the Crusaders were more than content to root out stops on defense and control the clock offensively, similar to a run-first football team on the gridiron. In playoff basketball, when the game's outcome is normally decided in cutthroat halfcourt situations, Jesuit was the squad that manned up most to move onto the semifinals against West Linn.

“Everybody can agree both teams didn't shoot that well, but defense is what got it done for us,” said junior guard Ryan Bay. “We did a good job of knowing what our responsibilities were and what they were going to do on each play. We handled it really well.”

“I thought we did a really good job of taking them out of their stuff,” added Nelson. “We know shooting percentages tend to go down when people come here, but we were prepared for it. We flew around, we talked on defense. I thought we were really solid.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior power forward Henry Mondeaux tries to drive past a South Medford defender.

Jack Nadelhoffer kept the Crusaders' parade to the line going, swishing two more attempts at the line to make it 40-32. The junior forward led a balanced Jesuit attack with 10 points. Bucy scored eight while Mondeaux, Bay and Ryan McEvoy scored five apiece. Bucy grabbed nine rebounds while Bay had six.

“When we step up to the line, all 12 guys believe in themselves,” said Bay. “We practice those pressure situations every day. We stepped up big and that really sealed the deal for us.”

South Medford pulled within 32-30 of Jesuit with 3:12 to go in the fourth, when the Panthers missed two free throws of their own, but came away with an offensive board and buried a three from the top of the key. Yet, Bucy soared in from the right wing to finish a miss go up 34-30. The Panthers answered with two free throws to make it 34-32, but fouled Nelson on his way to the hoop to set up the deciding attempts.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior Ryan McEvoy sails to the basket for a lay-up in the fourth quarter against South Medford.

“Some of us have been here before and know what it's like to be on the line in a big situation like that,” said Nelson. “I got the first two and we were rolling from there, so it was good.”

Jesuit's been proving the naysayers wrong all season, the ones who say the Crusaders don't have the same talent level as they've had in the past and can't ride stride-for-stride with the state's best. Admittedly, South Medford isn't what it once was when the Singler brothers and other singular greats like Michael Harthun donned the blue and white for legendary coach Dennis Murphy. Nonetheless, Jesuit proved it still has that state tournament mojo that's made the fabled program a know commodity in the 6A ranks.

“I don't think anybody thought we'd be here except for us,” said Nelson. “We didn't play well in the second half like we thought we should have, but we pulled it out and here we are.”

“I've been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” added Landry. “I think all of us have, so it's just a great feeling right now.”