Crusaders hope to make it back to the Chiles Center and reach the elite eight again

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit senior Savannah Corradini is one of the best outside shooters in the state.

On the outside looking in for the past two years at the Class 6A state tournament, the Jesuit girls basketball team wants to return to its rightful place — the Chiles Center.

The last two seasons the Crusaders were kept away from the University of Portland campus as their offense ran dry in the second round of the 6A playoffs, leaving Jesuit a game shy of the elite eight.

However, Jesuit brings back a deep, talented roster that head coach Jason Lowery can go to with confidence game after game. Four of Jesuit's starters return — Anna Fanelli, Elsa Hookland, Taylor Freeman and Bella Mori. Savannah Corradini, Rachel Hickey and Kailynn Tuck also will play major roles. All six are long-standing contributors at the varsity level. Corradini and Freeman were both second-team all-Metro last year and Mori was third-team all-Metro.

Fanelli is a senior who saw playing time as a freshman at the 2016 state tournament as a hounding, ball-hawking point guard who lives and breathes on the defensive end but is equally capable of running the show at the point guard position.

"Anna Fanelli is one of the state's best floor generals," Lowery said.

Hookland can play and guard multiple positions, a player Lowery refers to her as Jesuit's "blank piece in a Scrabble game." Freeman brings an athleticism on both sides of the ball. Mori is "as well-rounded as they come" according to Lowery, who said there isn't much the senior doesn't do on the floor. Corradini may be the best shooter Lowery has ever coached and is "a fireball of intensity on the defensive end." Hickey is a tremendous defender and shooter. Tuck is versatile and athletic.

Jesuit likes to put pressure on the basketball defensively and play at a faster pace than its competition is accustomed to. With athletes all over the hardwood and a point guard in Fanelli who likes to fly all over the floor, the Crusaders were turn up the speed while still playing smart, heady hoops in the half court. The Crusaders figure to be in contention for one of the top three seeds in the Metro League, which would help them gain home court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs for the second straight year. The strength of Metro will aid any contender hoping to make a run at the postseason. Cupcakes are few and far between. The OSAA power rankings most likely will be littered with five, maybe six Metro teams aligned in the top-32 of the state. With the Hillsboro schools vacated out of Metro, leaving just the Beaverton programs to duke it out for the league crown, Lowery said he sees no reason why the two-time defending state champion Skyhawks shouldn't be the head-and-shoulders pick to three-peat. The veteran head coach likes his team and its chances, but Southridge is pretty infallible, at least early in the year.

"Until someone proves otherwise Southridge is the unquestioned favorite, not just in our league but in the state," Lowery said. "Our experience, versatility, and depth are going to allow us to compete every night."

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