Jesuit splashes South Eugene, advances to 6A second round
Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right?
Apparently, when South Eugene got doused by a Jesuit 17-three-pointer downpour back in December the Axe didn't receive the memo. The Crusaders' quiver of selfless perimeter snipers runs deep with Matt Lang and Aiden Williams chief among them. Leave them open, let them get sequences of uncontested looks and it's asking for obliteration.
South Eugene was well aware of Jesuit's prowess after seeing it up close and personal. But when the basketball gods blessed the Axe with a second shot at the Crusaders, it was deja vu all over again.
In what felt like a bizarre version of groundhog's day, on the last day of February no less, Jesuit put on another outside shooting spectacle at the Axe's expense, only the Crusaders one-upped themselves, making 19 of 29 three-pointers in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs in an 83-54 trouncing at Jesuit High School.
"It's blast," Lang said. "You hit a three, your buddy hits a three, it's a great feeling to have, especially when the whole team is excited to be moving on. The bench was into it, we played good defense, got easy buckets in transition. When we're shooting well, we're definitely tough to guard."
No. 8 Jesuit hosts No. 9 North Medford in the second round of the 6A playoffs at Jesuit High at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The winner advances to the state tournament on Thursday at the Chiles Center.
"We're pumped," Lang said. "We're excited to see what they have. Our goal the whole season has been making it to the Chiles Center, make a run at state. We just have to take it one game at a time."
"I think we're really dangerous," Williams added. "I think we're a threat to some of the top teams in the state. I'm confident in our team and looking forward to Saturday."
It was the same gym, same marksmen, same main characters, same shoddy South Eugene 2-3 zone defense in the Crusader-Axe rematch, but with higher stakes. Additionally, Lang was on the court in uniform as opposed to out with an ankle injury as he was earlier in the year, adding another celebrated floor spacer to the Crusader offense. The Axe's zone scheme was nearly identical to the one Jesuit carved up in early December. There were weak spots galore all along the perimeter, which the Crusaders exploited with conscientious, rapid-fire ball movement that enabled copious wide open casts both spotting up and running around the flat Axe defenders. Jesuit built a 22-9 first-quarter lead thanks to five made threes: three from Joe Wall, and one each from Williams and Lang, who was licking his chops to let it fly over the lagging Axe.
"I don't know what (South Eugene) was thinking, I don't know how they let us keep shooting, but it worked out well," Lang said with a smile. "Everyone was unselfish, we attacked, brought the defense in and kicked (the ball) out."
Williams led the charge again, matching his nine three-pointer spree in December with nine more threes against the Axe en route to a game-high 27 points. The righty flamethrower barely hit the rim on his deep attempts, reeling off three straight triples at one point in the second quarter and then canned another in transition to push Jesuit's lead to 37-12.
"I love shooting, (South Eugene) let me and I took advantage of it," Williams said. "I think we're a really unselfish team. We all share the ball well. We always try to hit the hot guy and I was the hot guy tonight. They fed me the ball. My coaches tell me to keep shooting, keep shooting, even if I miss."
Maybe South Eugene didn't watch film from its previous matchup against Jesuit. Perhaps they left their scouting reports on Williams at home. Whatever the reason, South Eugene's defense had no remedy for the Jesuit sharpshooter and was promptly eviscerated. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, if you will. Lang and Will Sheaffer each hit treys of their own in the second quarter as the Crusaders sailed to a 44-19 halftime lead.
"We see everyone on the floor, stay patient and look at all of our options on offense," Williams said.
And when the Axe aborted their zone and opted for a more conventional man-to-man scheme, Jesuit sliced that up as well with more ball and man movement, crisp passing and splashes from deep. The Crusaders poured on seven more second-half threes, two from Lang and another trio from Williams, who somehow found himself free time and time again.
"I didn't even hear them yell 'Stay out on him' (on defense) or anything from their bench, so that was shocking," Lang said.
Lang had 19 points and Joe Wall finished with 14 (four threes) for the Crusaders. Sheaffer, Sam Handley and Alex Wan all had five points.