Cool-handed Corradini, Crusaders beat Wildcats
The crackpot double-digit Crusader comeback, and whether it continued on or fluttered away, came down to the red-hot right hand of Savannah Corradini.
Down 44-41 with 11 seconds left after a frenetic, manic fourth quarter against Westview, Jesuit point guard Callan Harrington somehow, some way came away with the basketball and raced the rock up the floor as time ticked.
Harrington beat her initial defender off the dribble enough that Westview junior shooting guard Shanice Uwase had to help off of Corradini, who was camped in the left corner — the same spot she'd made two threes from earlier in the game, including a big one that brought Jesuit within two late in the fourth. With Uwase coming over to stop Harrington, the sophomore point guard fired a chest pass to Corradini who quickly flicked her right wrist, followed through, and swished the game-tying three with five seconds to go. Westview couldn't get off a game-winning attempt and the game went to overtime tied at 44-44.
With the Knight Center rocking, their student section jigging and the game's momentum on their side, Corradini and company made eight-of-ten free throws in the extra session and fended off the Wildcats with truculent defense to win the Metro League contest 52-46 at Jesuit High on Friday night.
"It doesn't matter what the score is throughout the game, as long as you come together and play together, then anything is possible, from the tip to the buzzer," Corradini said. "Our shots weren't falling. We couldn't finish. We were making dumb decisions on defense. But we all made an executive decision to come together, support each other and pick each other up."
Trailing by as much as 12 in the third and by as much as eight in the fourth, Jesuit flat out refused to fold. Corradini was huge, hitting three three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Harrington picked Westview senior guard Yu Ishii's pocket clean and raced to the other end for two to bring Jesuit within 38-35 with 3:23 to go. Uwase cooly banked home a floater that extended Westview's lead to 42-38, but Jesuit's Elsa Hookland careened off a double pick and swished a top of the key three to pull Jesuit within 42-41.
Westview freshman Josie Napoli, after a wicked open floor collision with Jesuit's Taylor Freeman that sent both players to the floor in a heap, went to the line and swished the first free throw, facing the one-and-one penalty and then sank the second to make it 44-41 with 16.2 seconds left. With Jesuit having to inbound the ball from 94 feet away Westview called a timeout and put Napoli on Harrington to deny her the ball and least make the inbound attempt tough. Napoli not only smothered Harrington, but she tipped the ball away and grabbed it near the Westview hoop. Yet, rather than cover up the ball and wait for Jesuit to foul, Napoli went to the rim, where Harrington and Anna Fanelli harried her into a miss, still down three.
"It's a good learning experience for us," Westview junior Kamryn Jones said. "Jesuit is a good team. We're lucky that we get to play each other and push each other. Knowing time and situation and staying composed is something we're going to continue to work on. It was rough, but we win as a team and lose as a team. It was a team effort, it's never any one player's fault if something like that happens. We have to play hard until the last minute and when the other team adjusts, we have to adjust as well."
With both teams frantically trying to situate themselves, Harrington hit the gas and made the on-point pass to Corradini in her favorite left corner.
"(Fanelli) always tells me 'Savannah, shoot the ball, be confident, don't worry if it's going in or not because you're a great shooter. You just need to relax and shoot the ball,'" Corradini said. "I heard her in my head and I just had to get it up there."
From there it was all muscle memory from countless repetitions in the gym — all net, all money. Uwase tried a last-gasp contest with a leap and lunge at the Crusader sniper, but Corradini's quick, smooth release sent the ball skyward on its preordained orbit toward the bottom of the cotton.
"I didn't really think about, it just blew my mind that it went in," Corradini said with a smile. "I figured we had nothing to lose, I was going to throw it up and hopefully luck was on my side and it was."
After Corradini's heroics, the ending to what was an action-packed thriller felt inevitable in favor of the Crusaders. Corradini opened overtime with two free throws to give Jesuit its first lead since the fourth quarter at 46-44. Fanelli made one of two at the line to extend Jesuit's lead to 47-44, then Uwase slid along the baseline for a layup to bring Westview within 47-46. Hookland hit one at the charity stripe to make it 48-46, then Fanelli forced a five-second violation, smothering Uwase with shoulder-to-shoulder ball pressure. From there, Jesuit forward Bella Mori came up big, bagging four-of-four free throws to put the game in the win column. The Crusaders held Westview to just one field goal in overtime. In fact, over the course of the overtime and fourth quarter, Jesuit limited Westview to just 11 points as its unabated pressure defense began to take control, with the neon-colored home crowd fully backing them.
"We weren't going to lose again in overtime," Corradini said. "And the energy in (the Knight Center) was just insane. You could feel it on the floor, in the huddle, during timeouts. I think it made everybody play better."
For the first 20 minutes or so against Westview on Friday night, it appeared Jesuit wouldn't have a chance at such a resurgence. The Wildcats, who lost to Jesuit by four points just a month earlier, went on a 14-2 second quarter run that swung the tide toward the Wildcats and broke open a game that had three ties and four lead changes in the first 10 minutes of action. Westview's 2-3 zone limited Jesuit to just four second-quarter points. And when the Wildcats controlled the defensive boards and beat the Crusaders to the 50-50 loose balls, Uwase, Napoli, Macie Lewis and company were able to capitalize, running the lanes wide and hard, getting easy baskets. Napoli came out of the gate gunning, hitting two threes in the first quarter en route to 12 first-half points.
"They played super hard and aggressive," Jones said of her Wildcat backcourt. "They did a great job of handling Jesuit's pressure. Napoli had a bunch of great threes. She's gonna be a stud and she already is. (Uwase) made a bunch of great drives."
At the half Westview was up 26-16 and led by as much as 12 in the third quarter when Napoli corkscrewed in-between two Crusaders with a sweet Euro-step move that gave the Wildcats a 32-20 edge.
"We attacked well, we weren't afraid of contact and we did rebounding for the most part," Jones said. "We just need to step on it a little bit more. We were kind of playing the same pace in the first half and we have to bring it a little bit harder. And, Jesuit's defense stepped up."
How big of a win was this for Jesuit? With one triumph, the Crusaders (15-6 overall, 9-4 in Metro) went from ninth to eighth in the Class 6A power rankings, single-handedly vaulting themselves from possibly just one home playoff contest to two, should Jesuit advance that far. Even better, Jesuit closes the year with a favorable three-game stretch against the Hillsboro schools. Win out and Jesuit could have homecourt advantage in the first two rounds of postseason action, a huge benefit for any team hoping to reach the Chiles Center — the site of the 6A state tournament.
Westview fell to 9-11 overall and 5-8 in Metro with a No. 19 slot in the power rankings. Westview ends the season with Glencoe, Aloha and Liberty. Napoli led all scorers with 16 points. Corradini led Jesuit with 15 points. Freeman and Amyr Lowe added 9 apiece. Jones had 10 for Westview. Uwase and Ishii each ended the game with 8 apiece