Jesuit boys basketball slips by Summit, advances to elite eight
In the middle of a white-hot heater, the likes of which a shooter can only daydream about during those grimy summer sessions in the gym, Liam Ruttledge ripped a right-wing three, sprinted back down the floor and eased to a slow trot as Summit called timeout.
Ruttledge was rolling, carrying the Jesuit boys' basketball team in the fourth quarter of a closer than anticipated Class 6A second-round clash against the Storm. His southpaw stroke, deadly when dialed in, was locked and loaded. That aforementioned three doubled Jesuit's lead from three to six at 48-42 with 3:18 to go in the fourth.
As Ruttledge retreated toward the bench, Jesuit team captain Matt Levis turned and looked toward his comrade with a quizzical, but comical gaze, extended his hand for a powerful high five and in no certain terms wondered about his teammate's particular timing.
"I walked up to him and said, 'So you waited the whole damn game to do this, huh?" Levis said with a laugh. "That was the only thing I had to say to him."
It was that kind of night, that kind of quarter for Ruttledge. The left-handed wing poured in 30 points, half of which occurred in the fourth period when Jesuit needed it most. His outpouring, coupled with the Crusaders ratcheting up their team defense and work on the defensive glass down the stretch against a skilled and underrated Storm squad, clinched a 61-55 win on Saturday at Jesuit High School. As Ruttledge walked out of the Jesuit locker room, a few of his non-basketball playing friends waved their arms up and down at their buddy, trying to cool down the still brimming with confidence sharpshooter. Summit certainly had no answer.
"It took me a little bit to get going, but once I'm feeling it, I can really get it going," Ruttledge said. "I give credit to my teammates. They were driving and hitting the open gaps. Every day in practice we go over certain drills just to be ready for different types of defenses that we might see. It was great coaching and my teammates being able to find me."
The top-ranked defending state champion Crusaders will take on No. 9 West Linn in the 6A quarterfinals at the Chiles Center on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The Summit clash was a perfect harbinger for what lies ahead. The Storm was a squad of trash-talking, predatory yet sage competitors who were far from afraid of Jesuit. In the second quarter, Summit snatched a nine-point lead, let it go because of a second-quarter Jesuit surge, but still stayed within eight points all night of the Crusaders. The limp in Levis' step and the bulky ice bag on his shoulder told the story. Jesuit was bumped and bruised, but better off with the taxing task.
"This wasn't just a good step, but a necessary step," Levis said. "We have a younger team. Only a few of us have played in Chiles before. (At Chiles), it's completely like it was today. We needed this game to get to the next level. We were getting beat up tonight, but it's only going to get tougher."
Levis goes way back with West Linn senior guard Micah Garrett, having grown up on the travel circuit together. Many of the Lions and Crusaders have crossed paths over the years be it at the AAU level or suiting up for their respective schools. Jesuit lost to West Linn earlier in the season at the Les Schwab Invitational. Admittedly, the Crusaders were hoping the Lions would break through to the quarters for a long-awaited rematch.
"I wanted West Linn, I want redemption," Levis said. "No disrespect, I don't want this to be taken the wrong way, but I have some things I need to settle with my buddies from West Linn."
"Teams hit a whole different level in the playoffs," Ruttledge said.
Summit was well-schooled and savvy when it came to its gameplan on both ends of the floor. The Storm switched every Crusader screen on defense, whether it was a side ball screen, a down screen, a dribble drive handoff, and backed those switches with extra help away from the action.
Offensively, Summit ran its shooters such as Jacob Tompkins off thickets and back screens, slip screens, flex cuts and either found open looks from deep or ideal shots from around the rim.
"That is a well-coached team," Ruttledge said of Summit. "Even though they're the 16th seed, that is a top-10 team in the state. All of their sets they run to perfection, that's why it was such a close game. Props to them. They're physical. They know what they want to do, who to get the ball to. They'll do anything to get it."
One of the remedies for Summit's tricky defense was Ruttledge. His off-the-ball activity both on the offensive boards, in transition and finding ways around Summit's switch-heavy scheme were remarkable. Ruttledge scored Jesuit's first 11 points of the fourth quarter on a variety of different conversions be it on the break, floating teardrops over the top of the defense, getting to the free throw line or flowing out to the perimeter when Summit lost track of him in the congested middle of the key. His bag was diverse, but what never changed was Ruttledge's perpetual motion, gliding around the floor, always trying to be available for his teammates.
"Liam moves on the perimeter so well," Levis said. "He moves constantly on the wing, causing the guy to guard him to look from the corner, can't see him, so he looks up but it's too late at that point. He gets separation at that point and that's all he needs to get that shot off."
Eventually, Levis and Roy Bunn were able to break their defenders down off the bounce and find cracks in the Storm defensive scheme. On the final play of the third quarter, Levis kicked a pass to Connor Kollas who whipped the ball to Mike Brittingham who swished the deep left corner three to give Jesuit a 41-38 lead going into the fourth. There were other clever methods of avoiding Summit in the half-court. Once, inbounding the ball underneath the basket, Levis bounced the ball off the back of an unsuspecting Storm player and slyly laid the ball off the glass. When Jesuit held Summit to one shot and got the ball out to a guard cleanly on the outlet pass it was able to find success sprinting the floor hard and finishing on the fast break.
"They were very disciplined," Levis said of Summit. "They stayed very composed if we attacked. But once we started getting some more dribble penetration, they started to falter a little bit. That's when we kicked the ball out and got some nice shots out of it."
In the fourth, as Ruttledge continued to roar offensively, Levis unleashed a hellacious physical boxout that kept Tompkins off the glass, shuttled the ball to Bunn who flipped a home run outlet pass to Ruttledge for two. Another Ruttledge layup extended Jesuit's lead to 52-44. Two more Ruttledge free throws made it 56-48. Summit closed within 57-53 but missed an important free throw after a hoop and harm. Then Jesuit broke the press and James Lang hit Ruttledge, the constant release valve in the press break, for two to go up 59-53.
Lang finished with 10 points while Bunn had eight points, four assists and four rebounds. Jesuit is now 22-4 overall after conquering one of the toughest non-league schedules in the state and winning the Metro League outright. Five of the teams Jesuit played in the preseason: West Linn (twice), Clackamas, Barlow, Central Catholic and Lake Oswego all advanced to the elite eight.
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