Crusaders utilizing their speed

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit guard Keara Vu has taken over as one the Crusaders best defensive players in the preseason.

There has been plenty of remodeling — albeit constructive refining — around the Jesuit girls' basketball program.

Head coach Jason Lowery has changed the Crusaders' course and turned Jesuit into a faster, more uptempo team that can get up and down the hardwood with swiftness. As opposed to last season, when Jesuit was more of a half-court team that was post-dominated, Jesuit's aim is to get out on the break and put more points on the scoreboard.

Lowery's deployed more of a four-guard lineup with quicker playmakers like Kate Anderson, Keara Vu, Alexis Mendelsohn and AnneMarie Minniti, among others, orbiting around agile 6-foot-1 sophomore post Alzena Henry and 6-foot senior pivot Lauren Glick.

“It's more advantageous for our personnel,” said Lowery. “It's a lot more fun way to play. We're emphasizing transition a lot more like we used to. It gives our guards a little more room to operate and do stuff that they weren't really allowed to do last year.”

“We can pass more and drive more,” added senior Emily Allen. “We can do more dribble-drives this year, which will be a really good offense for us. I like what I've seen so far in our improvement. I think we have a lot of promise. I'm excited to get going this season.”

Playing four guards, who can all handle the rock, has allowed the Crusaders to alleviate constricting ball pressure from opponents and dictate the flow of the game. Instead of reacting, Lowery said, Jesuit's been able to be more of the aggressor this year.

“We're a young group, so our philosophy is play hard, play together, and then we'll figure the rest out,” said Lowery. “I think we can compete in the Metro League with anyone. If we keep working hard, there's no telling what we can do. But, there are still some question marks we'll have to answer in the next couple of weeks.”

Glick said Jesuit's team strength is its overall quickness, which shows up when the Crusaders hound teams in the fullcourt press.

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit sophomore guard Kate Anderson is one of the Crusaders primary playmakers this season.

“We really emphasize defense,” said Glick. “We want to get a lot of steals. It's something we thrive off of and try to use to our advantage.”

Anderson is a returning all-Metro League sophomore guard and one of Jesuit's top offensive threats on the perimeter. Henry demands attention in the post, and Vu's really taken pride in taking the other team's best guard out of the game defensively. Minniti and Allen round out the starting five, though Lowery plays nine to 11 players on a nightly basis. Juniors Katie Kilpatrick and Connie Wing and sophomores Hadley Wilhoite, Kory Oleson, Lexie Becker and Ellie Sears have all played early on in the preseason.

So far, Glick and Allen said Jesuit's created a strong team rapport that wasn't always there last season when the Crusaders finished 11-15 overall and 5-5 in the Metro League. Jesuit did close 2012-13 on a strong note, however, winning five of its final six games before losing to Tigard in the second round of the 6A playoffs.

“We have really good team chemistry to start off the year, so it's been great,” said Glick. “One of the things our coach emphasizes is family, and it's something we say after we break the huddle in games or practice. I think it really impacts the way we play together. We know we're playing for each other, and not ourselves.”

“We're a really fun team, and we like each other,” added Allen. “It helps us play for each other and helps us play better on the court together.”

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit senior post Lauren Glick leads a young Crusader team looking to get to the 6A state tournament.

Jesuit played what Lowery described as a “seasoned, quality team” in Oregon City to start the season. Though the Crusaders fell, 54-29, the head coach felt his young team made solid progress against the top-ranked team in 6A. The Crusaders forgot about the Pioneer loss with a 55-36 crushing of Central Catholic, and clipped Camas, Wash., 51-45. The Crusaders have done a good job of keeping their turnovers down, Glick said, but it's a problem in the past and needs to be monitored. Jesuit's also refining its technique at the free throw line, in hopes of cashing in at the charity stripe come Metro League play.

“Right now, we're just trying to establish our culture,” said Lowery. “We're playing hard, playing good defense, playing for 94 feet, which is different than what we've done the past couple years. We're definitely going in the right direction.”

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