For every game, the basketball team at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore. has one goal - to improve from the previous night out. Over four days at the 2003 Les Schwab Invitational, the Crusaders did plenty of improving, and also picked up a championship trophy along the way. In front of 3895 spectators at the Chiles Center on the campus of the University of Portland, the Jesuit Crusaders used gritty defense and a huge second-half run to overcome freshman phenom Kevin Love and the Lake Oswego Lakers, 64-42.
"This feels amazing," said Crusader junior guard Jordan Mast. "We've had this as one of our main goals this year and we've been working towards this all season. It feels great - everybody's excited and jacked up."
While the ending was good for the Crusaders, it certainly did not start out that way for Jesuit at the very beginning of the game. Lake Oswego came out of the gate on fire with Love converting a conventional three-point play, senior wing Hannes Gehring sinking a three, and Love scoring on another layup for a 8-0 Lakers lead and a Jesuit timeout.
The Crusaders recovered however, and got back into the game by using their own 11-4 run at the end of the first half to build a 34-28 advantage at the break.
While Jesuit brought momentum into halftime, they came out of the locker room completely flat as the second half opened as ominously as the first. With Gehring and Love taking turns scoring, Lake Oswego scored eight straight points while Jesuit missed their first nine shots after the half. There was 3:32 left in the third period before Jesuit forward Abe Kaempf scored on a fast break to end the drought and tie the game at 36.
But that is where the tide turned for the Crusaders. With the score knotted up at 37, reserve guard Doug Riehl hit a three and it seemed to spark the Jesuit offense. Seth Tarver stole the ball off the break, scored, and drew a foul.
After a couple of empty Lake Oswego possessions, Tarver scored on another jumper. And after consecutive threes by Tarver and senior forward Dan Nugent early in the fourth, the rout was on. Jesuit ended up going on a 19-0 run where they simply couldn't miss.
Meanwhile on the defensive end, the Crusaders turned up their hallmark pressure defense and Lake Oswego, clearly starting to fatigue and succumb to the blitz, suffered turnover after turnover.
Finally with 4:49 left in the game, Love scored consecutive baskets on a hook shot and a layup to get the Lakers back on the board, down 55-41. But the damage had already been done. Jesuit safely controlled the ball, burned clock on their end, and held Lake Oswego to only one point the rest of the way out.
Seth Tarver led a balanced Jesuit attack with 17 points, while older brother Josh scored 15 and Nugent added 12. Love put up another brilliant performance for the Lakers despite suffering a high ankle sprain the night before. He scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds - but was held to only eight points in the second half.
"They're good - they're probably the best defensive team in the state," said Love. "We got tired and just let it slip away from us in the end. It's a learning experience for us."
The title for Jesuit - the second ever for an in-state high school team - capped off a remarkable tournament where the semi-finals were all Oregon teams for the first time in the Invitational's history.
"This was a great tournament for Oregon high school basketball," said Jesuit head coach Gene Potter. "I think the talent level in Oregon is a lot higher than people think. And there's a lot of pretty good coaches in the state of Oregon. They prepare their teams really well, they know how to execute and get their teams to compete."
All-Tournament Team Kevin Love, Lake Oswego (MVP) Jeremiah Dominguez, South Salem Roy Hibbert, Georgetown Prep Josh Tarver, Jesuit Seth Tarver, Jesuit D.J. White, Hillcrest