Estep, Beaverton sprint past Jaguars
As the senior team captain, Beaverton's Jake Estep sets the tone.
As Estep goes, so does Beaverton. He's the leader both vocally and by his actions and high usage mail carrier rolled into one.
And with his team in need of a win against an undermanned Century squad, Estep took matters into his own hands. With league-leading Southridge looming on Friday and an uneven first half versus the Jags just recently put behind them, Estep scored 17 second-half points to badger Beaverton past Century, 55-44, at Century High on Tuesday night.
"I have that responsibility on me," Estep said. "(Head coach Andrew) Vancil has harped on me to be the leader all year. If guys aren't working hard, that's on me because they look to me. If I'm not going hard, then they take a backseat. I tell them we gotta go hard no matter if we're playing the worst team or we're playing (Jefferson) or Southridge. Whoever it is, we have to play hard."
At 14-9 overall and 10-5 in Metro, Beaverton is now in sole possession of third place in the league standings with just its square-off against Southridge remaining. Losing to Century wouldn't have been crippling by any means, but it certainly would've curtailed any momentum the No. 17 Beavers have generated winning four of its last five coming in. With a chance to spoil Southridge's shot at its first Metro title in school history on Friday for "Cram the Cage", Estep and company didn't want to forget about the foe in front of them.
"You can't overlook a team like (Century)," Estep said. "(Century) is athletic, they have a big (Josh Walkenhorst) who's 6-foot-10 and pretty good. We didn't even talk about Southridge coming in, we didn't go over what they were going to run. We had to stay focused on Century and that's what we did."
Stylistically, it wasn't the prettiest victory. At times in the first half, Beaverton was careless and loose with the ball and let Century loiter around the contest with turnovers and empty possessions. But at this point in the season, every 'W' counts, particularly in the OSAA power rankings.
"It was ugly, but we showed some great poise, some great execution in the fourth quarter," Estep said. "At halftime, we talked about being more sound, not turning the ball over as much."
Leading Century 25-24 at halftime, Estep said Vancil emboldened his team to make a second-half run, to separate themselves from a Century squad that has just five wins on the season. With his coach's message on his mind, Estep put his signature on the Metro matchup. The Western Oregon signee got himself going with a layup in transition and two offensive putbacks inside that gave Beaverton a 33-31 lead. On the next trip down, the all-Metro forward drove right, drew a Jag defender who was one pass away and kicked the ball out to Mason Stewart-Carothers who swished the right corner three that extended Beaverton's lead to 36-31. Then Beaverton sophomore John Oleson crashed the offensive glass and followed home an Estep miss to make it 38-31 with 1:46 to go.
At the end of the third Beaverton led 38-31 thanks to a 7-0 spurt. The Beavers held Century scoreless for the final three-and-a-half minutes of the third. Oleson, the second-tallest player on the Beaver roster at 6-foot-2, did an outstanding job of keeping Walkenhorst off the offensive boards in the third quarter, boxing out the big man and beating him to the ball off the glass. Stewart-Carothers and Mike Gooding anchored Beaverton's man-to-man defense, denying dribble penetration, trapping Century's guards out top from time to time to stifle the Jags' halfcourt offense.
"(Vancil) said he hadn't seen us go on a run in the second half, so we took that personal," Estep said. "We wanted to go on a run for him."
Estep was assertive, not hunting shots, but looking to turn Century's extra defensive attention into high percentage looks with smart decisions. He crashed the glass, penetrated and passed, stabilizing the Beavers with his playmaking.
"It wasn't really my offense that got me in sync, but my rebounds, defense and assists," Estep said.
Beaverton continued to play well in the fourth. Oleson swiveled home a reverse layup of a sweet find from combo guard Isaac Rosenthal. And with confidence proliferating, Estep took the game over for good, burying three consecutive threes that pushed Beaverton's lead into the double-digit range. First, Estep stepped into rhythm three off another nice find in transition by Rosenthal to give Beaverton a 45-35 lead. Then the senior ran off a well-designed cross screen and sprayed another three from nearly the same exact spot at the right angle to make it 48-37. Another well-executed set sent Estep into the left corner where he canned another triple off a chest pass from Oleson, 51-39. After struggling a bit to find the range in the first half, the most feared scorer in Metro got microwave hot in a matter of minutes, much to the chagrin of Century.
"All of my shots were halfway in-and-out in the first half," Estep said with a smile. "The first one I let go (in the fourth), it went in and my teammates found me the rest of the way."
Estep finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Rosenthal had a team-high five assists to go along with six points and two steals. Gooding had three assists and two steals. Oleson had seven rebounds, six points and four assists for Beaverton.