'Hawks handle Beavers on the road
Part of the progression in morphing from prohibitive preseason favorite to league champion lies in a team's ability to operate away from the friendly confines of home.
Winning on the road is almost a rite of passage that every good team has to go through, to get those battle scars, to acquire the know-how and calm the angst that comes with facing a hostile crowd.
Southridge is starting to get it. Jesuit ambushed the Skyhawks at the Knight Center 11 days ago as Southridge tightened up down the stretch and gave away an 18-point lead in a 46-43 defeat.
Yet, on Tuesday night, facing a young Beaverton squad looking for a signature win in its annual raucous affair with its crosstown rival, Southridge answered the bell.
Playing rugged, rough-and-tumble defense to go along with a concerted aggressive approach on offense, the Skyhawks beat Beaverton 69-57 at Beaverton High School.
"I think it's just a mentality," Southridge junior Kade Hustler said. "We struggled against Jesuit, but we're not a team that's going to give up like that. We're going to bounce back and learn from it moving forward. We've had some good practices and we're putting it all together. Tonight we came out a little sluggish, but got our legs under us and finished strong."
The Beavers are one of the more inexperienced teams in Metro, a group that leans heavily on sophomores and juniors in its rotation. Yet, in the first three quarters or so, Beaverton went toe-to-toe with the veteran-laden Skyhawks. The game's lead switched sides eight times and there were four ties in the first 20 minutes of action. Beaverton sophomore John Oleson, who's won a spot in the starting lineup, played well, making outside shots and scrapping inside for loose balls. Point guard Mike Gooding moved the basketball and gave Beaverton a 33-30 lead in the third on a three-pointer from the right wing. Yet, as the game grew, Southridge's burgeoning maturity showed through.
"There were just five or six plays over the duration of the game that decided it for us," Oleson said. "We got a little beat up on the glass and had a few too many turnovers, but I think we competed down the stretch. Give Southridge credit. They're a good team, a senior-led team. We have a lot of youth and it showed. Our sophomores played like sophomores and a lot of their seniors played like seniors. Even in a tough loss like this, we're still going to grow. It's on to the next game."
Senior Jake Estep was sensational for Beaverton, pouring in 31 points despite drawing nearly all of Southridge's defensive attention both when he had the ball or worked his around thickets of screens to acquire it. Estep was a handful, swishing tough catch-and-cast threes, drawing fouls inside, making free throws at the charity stripe. The Western Oregon signee scored 15 points in the first half and nine of Beaverton's points in the third including a three with a minute left that brought the Beavers within 43-37.
"He did what Jake Estep does," Oleson said with a smile. "He's a great player. He's going to get his points no matter what happens. We can always rely on him. The rest of us just have to step up and score to help him out."
Physically, the Skyhawks were stout. Hustler, Bickler and Fullerton had their way inside. 22 of the Skyhawks' 27 first-half points came in the paint or at the free throw line. Southridge's posts pounded the offensive glass, getting second-chance points around the hoop. And its guards like Zach Galvin, Bo Quinlan, Brock Henry and Connor Fajardo turned down threes and took the ball to the rim where contact awaited but wasn't shied away from. Quinlan and Fajardo both finished and-one three-point plays inside in the first half and Hustler and Bickler battled ferociously on the boards. Beaverton was equally as game for the physical matchup and practiced patience and poise to get the best possible shot in the first half. But eventually, Southridge's size advantage took a toll on the Beavers.
"We have tough out games like that," Oleson said. "We have to be tough down the stretch and not let (Southridge) out-physical us the whole time. We have to be tougher. Southridge was bigger, more physical. You have to match their physicality and I just don't think myself or our team did that tonight."
Southridge is a team that can bury opponents with three-point shooting barrages. Against Oak Hill in the second round of the Les Schwab Invitational, the Skyhawks rode a riptide of triples and gave the No. 2 in the country a first-quarter run because of their ability to get hot from deep. But against Beaverton, Southridge played a new brand of bully ball resolved around getting the rock to the rack. Four Skyhawks players scored in double figures, leading a balanced attack that featured Fullerton and Hustler inside while still getting the perimeter firepower from Henry and Quinlan.
"O-boards, extra effort plays get us extra shots and help us stretch out the lead," Hustler said. "We wanted to get the ball inside."
Beaveroton has one of the best home crowd advantages you'll find, a packed house that fills the BHS stands with fans from both sides of the rivalry. The student sections are rowdy and chirpy. Passionate parents sit behind the respective benches, keeping the referees in check, voicing their displeasure. Beaverton's arena is one of the toughest to play in both for the acoustics, the tuned-in students and the way the crowd is right on top of the players. The fact Southridge was able to take control in the third quarter and extend its lead into double figures in the fourth facing a kettle of orange-and-black cladded uproar all around them tells you what you need to know about the Skyhawks' fortitude.
"It's fun, the crowd is live on both sides, it's definitely the experience of a lifetime," Hustler said.
Beaverton actually pulled within 51-43 with just over five minutes to go in the fourth on a three from Oleson, but Henry and Hustler put home back-to-back layups in a 15-second span to extend Southridge's lead back out to double digits at 55-43. And though Beaverton cut Southridge's lead to single figures, the Skyhawks were able put the game away at the free throw line down the stretch.