The No. 4 Jesuit Crusaders (9-4) clamped down defensively in their 54-43 Metro League win over No. 5 Southridge (10-3, 2-1) on Friday night.
Despite being undersized, the Crusaders affected countless shots in the paint and limited Southridge to four made shots in the second half.
KGW caught up with forwards Collin Landry and Ryan McEvoy after the game to get their thoughts on the outstanding defensive perfromance.
The team defense stood out tonight. What was the plan coming into the night?
Landry: “We wanted to be physical in the post. Coach Potter told us to get into them early because they’re obviously a lot bigger and stronger than us. If we got into them early and used our quickness to get around them, then we had a good shot of winning the battle down low. He also said if the ball is ever down low we need to try to go for it. I think really succeeded in doing that. We had good backside help too, which was really important.”
McEvoy: “The most important thing was picking up people early so they couldn’t get to their spots. Once we saw they were coming out with that big front line, they started all three of their 6’6″-plus guys. That’s not something we saw coming. Once they threw that lineup card out there, coach told us it was time to punch them in the mouth do what we could. We just got that mentality and focus going.”
How did you guys personally take on the challenge of defending guys that are bigger and stronger?
McEvoy: “It’s definitely a pride thing. I’ve learned to play basketball at Jesuit that way. Sophomore year when I was on JV, we would scrimmage the varsity and they had big guys. So, Collin and I got used to battling. You’re going to get hit in the mouth and you just got to hit people back.”
Landry: “You just got to dig deep when you’re out-manned like that. It basically comes down to who wants it more. Generally, we try to win that battle. If we do, it takes teams out of what they want to do.”
McEvoy: “It comes down to heart.”
You guys played physical, but you also committed a lot of fouls in the second half. Was there any instruction to foul them if they get easy looks and force them to make free throws?
Landry: “Exactly. We weren’t sure if they were good free throw shooters. I only had one foul out the first half, so I had a couple to give. Coach Potter told me if they had an easy put-back, I had to get them out of the paint are not let them get the ball up for an and-one. That was my focus and I think it worked out pretty well.”
McEvoy: “I’ve fouled out of a lot of games so far. I get a lot of jokes about it. Coach Potter told us at the beginning of the game we have to use our fouls wisely. I was trying to think about that. I thought I played good defense a lot of times, but you can’t control the whistle.”
Do you think the way you contested every shot and were physical with Southridge led to some of their misses close to the rim?
Landry: “Definitely. They were definitely thinking about us coming over and stripping the ball when they had it down low. I think a couple of their lay-ins they should have made, they were thinking we were going to be there. It affected their shot and took them out of their rhythm.”
How did the full-court trap you began running in the second quarter impact the game?
Landry: “It made it much harder for them to get the ball down into the post. It really took their point guard out of rhythm of running the offense. We forced them to get it into other guys to run the offense. It slowed the game down on their offensive end. We fed on that and we tried to get on fast breaks. It really helped us. It gave us momentum.”
How about the free throw shooting in the fourth quarter? The team was 13 for 14.
Landry: “We shoot a ton of free throws in practice.”
McEvoy: “We had some games at the beginning of the season where we didn’t close like we should have. That’s been a focal point. We really responded.”
Landry: “We’ve shot free throws better since our first three games. Coach Potter has made that an emphasis in practice. He’s trying to make sure we can close games and play Jesuit basketball.”
What are you guys going to take away from this win?
Landry: “We’re a really tough team to beat. We also got to be prepared for every team in the Metro League. There isn’t a weak team in the Metro this year. If we come out with a different intensity, we could fall in the Metro. The league is open right now. Our goal is to win the league. But, take it one game at a time.”
McEvoy: “Focus is the most important thing. We got three seniors who are big players and we have a lot of underclassmen that are coming in. The most important thing is to come out with tonight’s focus, liveliness and energy so that we can have the same type of performance. In the first game against Jefferson, we knew that was a big game. We came out and played well. We took a little step back in the next couple of games. We knew this game was going to be a lot like the Jefferson game. We came out with that mindset and played the game we wanted to. If we can bring that every night, we’ll be hard to beat.”