Lang, Jesuit boys hoops battle past Beaverton
Cold-blooded shooting must run in the Lang bloodlines.
Matt was a southpaw sniper who helped propel Jesuit to four Class 6A tournaments during his illustrious Crusader tenure.
James, Matt's first cousin, is the next marksman in the Lang lineage albeit as a right-handed shooter. Already, he's proving to be just as clutch.
With Jesuit tied 44-44 in double overtime of an absolute grind of a game against Beaverton, Lang calmly made two free throws with five seconds left to give the Crusaders a 46-44 lead. Beaverton star John Oleson, who was responsible for pushing the contest to the second extra session with his own unflustered outside shooting display, tried to win the game with a desperation three-point heave just across half court but came up shy thanks to rigid man-to-man defense from Jesuit's Matt Levis.
Jesuit, who through four Metro League games looked unbeatable, preserved its undefeated conference mark at 5-0, beating Beaverton 46-44 at Jesuit High School on Jan. 29.
"Everyone on the bench told me to relax, that it was just like practice, up and over the rim," Lang said. "I actually didn't feel any pressure, but that's good."
Lang was a huge component of Jesuit's second-half success. In a low-possession, low scoring affair, Beaverton took an 18-11 third-quarter lead that felt like an 18-point advantage with how slow the game moved along and how neither team could find a flow offensively. Oleson and junior post Dane Erikstrup combined for 14 of Beaverton's 16 first-half points, all from 15 feet out or closer. However, Lang, quiet in the first half, came to life down the stretch, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half and both overtimes combined. With Beaverton sitting back in its patented 2-3 zone, Jesuit held the ball for the first minute and forty seconds of the second overtime, dribbling out near the half-court line as both teams stopped and stared at each other. Then, as Beaverton tried to force the action with a trap, Lang fired a one-handed pass to Liam Rutledge who went up, took the bump, and finished for the and-one to go up 43-40. Lang never let his confidence wane, even when his deep threes didn't drop. And his teammates, with Levis lifting his comrade, kept his spirits high.
"Matt came up to me and told me 'Just keep shooting the ball, we need you,'" Lang said.
Beaverton undeniably walked out of the Knight Center feeling like a win slipped through its hands. Oleson and Erikstrup were a powerful one-two punch, playing the high low game, setting cross screens for each other from block to block to get easy looks inside. Through three quarters Beaverton led 24-17 and its post duo scored 20 of those points. Beaverton's extended 2-3 zone was stymying, with Finn Barkenaes locking up the top of the zone, specifically the left side of the floor. Athletes like Oleson, Cody Davidson and Trent Walker swathed the floor with length and quickness. And Erikstrup was there in the middle, deterring drivers, providing a towering presence and active, long limbs. Beaverton forced Jesuit to think on offense rather than act and react. Possessions in the half-court took longer than usual to find good shots.
But throughout the game, Beaverton missed opportunities to extend its lead into double figures. While it dominated at times, Beaverton missed its share of bunnies around the rim, shots that were optimal looks, but spun in and out, or hit the corners of the glass and didn't fall into the net. Those misses ended up being costly.
Meanwhile, Jesuit hung around, as champions tend to do. Down by as much as seven in the fourth, Levis turned down an open look for a wide-open Lang three to make it 26-22, then Roy Bunn made two free throws to close within 26-24. On the next trip down, Jesuit's Aidan Corbitt took a huge charge on Erikstrup, wiping away a made hoop with 3:10 left. That led into Levis sneaking along the baseline and whipping a left-handed reverse off the window before the big Erikstrup could locate him inside to even the game at 26-26.
"In the first half we weren't getting perfect shots that we could've gotten," Lang said. "Had we attacked the middle and kicked it out to shooters, that would've prime for us. But we settled down and realized they were very extended, so we could easily get the ball from the baseline to the corner, go baseline, lay-in."
While Erikstrup had his way inside at times, Corbitt and Charlie Pickard made the big guy work for every inch of post position and bodied him whenever he got the ball on the block.
"Having 6'9 in the post is tough when you have 6'3 guarding it, but Aidan did a hell of a job tonight," Levis said. "He really stepped up. Even when he got into a little foul trouble that didn't stop him from being aggressive down there. And when Pickard was in the game, it was tough for Erikstrup to get around him. That was a huge part."
Walker and Bunn traded buckets to tie the game at 28-28. But with 4.4 seconds to go in the fourth, Beaverton missed the front end of a one-and-one at the free throw line that would've reclaimed the lead. In overtime, Levis made two free throws to go up 40-37 with 17 seconds left. Walker missed a left corner three, but Beaverton banged around the ball on the glass and it somehow bounced out to Oleson who collected the orange on the outskirts of the three-point plane, arranged his feet with a slick step back to get behind the three-point line and calmly flicked the right corner three that was true from the time it left his fingertips to tie it 40-40 and send the game to a second overtime.
Down 44-42 in double overtime, Erikstrup got the ball on the left block, turned inside and got his bank shot to drop while drawing an and-one opportunity at the free throw. But with the game tied at 44, Erikstrup's subsequent free throw skimmed off the back rim. That led to Lang driving baseline and drawing a foul on the Beavers that ultimately led to his game-winning free throws.
This game was grimy as it gets. In 38 minutes of game action, neither team shot above 40 percent from the floor. Jesuit shot the ball just 38 times. Oleson led Beaverton with 20 points while Erikstrup added 18 and 13 boards. Lang made four threes. Ruttledge tacked on 10 points as did Levis.
"That was not one of our prettiest games offensively, I'll just throw that out there," Levis said with a smile. "But defensively we came up and stepped up to the challenge."
Jesuit isn't just in sole possession of first place in Metro but it's 14-3 overall and the top-ranked team in the 6A power rankings. The Crusaders blew out their first four conference foes by at least 20 points each, this after taking on an ambitious non-league slate complete with tests against Mater Dei (CA), West Linn and Central Catholic, amongst others. This was almost an entirely new group than the one that took Jesuit to an improbable state title last year. Levis and Roy Bunn were the lone holdovers who saw big minutes on that team. But midway through this year, the Crusaders' identity and potential have crystalized. Lang and Ruttledge are knockdown shooters who space the floor out to 25 feet but are equipped to make plays off the bounce. Levis is the heartbeat on both ends of the floor. Corbitt and Pickard can wrestle with opposing posts inside. Bunn is blossoming into an on-ball defensive nuisance and a deft playmaker off the dribble. They've had 17 games to get adjusted to one another on the court. The roles that head coach Gene Potter assigns have been willingly accepted. And the familial bond that formed faster than normal according to Levis, is carrying over to the court.
"With us, that team chemistry and team bonding we do off the court really separates us," Levis said. "It's a lot easier to know if I drive baseline, I can have confidence that (Lang) is going to slide to the corner, so if I get in trouble, I can swing it to him. Or, if I drive middle, I know that Corbitt is going to duck in and be ready for that nice little bounce pass for a layup."
Jesuit next plays at Westview on Tuesday, while Beaverton hosts the Wildcats this Friday.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.