PORTLAND -- If there’s one thing that teams should know about playing Jesuit’s boys basketball team, it’s that you can’t give Aiden Williams an inch to shoot.
One day after Lake Oswego paid a hefty price for this mistake, Jefferson suffered the same fate in the championship game of the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament Saturday afternoon at the Chiles Center.
The 5-foot-11 senior guard caught fire with 12 points in the fourth quarter -- including three deep three-pointers -- as the No. 4 seed Crusaders came from behind to beat the No. 3 Democrats 71-66 for their first title since a four-year run at the top from 2009 to 2012.
“Aiden’s the best shooter in the state,” Jesuit senior wing Justin Bieker said. “He’s always going to be able to get his shots. There were times this year when it wasn’t falling. He stayed confident all year, and when the big moments came, he found a way to find his stroke and get it going.”
Williams went 5 of 8 from deep and scored 20 points. He repeatedly caught defenders flat-footed by using his quick release on shots well beyond the arc.
“A guy can put a hand in my face, do whatever they need, but I work on that with my dad and my coaches,” Williams said. “I’ve worked on that every day. I was kind of born with it, honestly.”
Williams’ outburst sparked the Crusaders (23-6) past big, talented and athletic Jefferson (24-6), a team that beat them 79-75 in the season opener Nov. 30. It is the seventh title for Jesuit coach Gene Potter, and given expectations throughout the season, probably the most unlikely.
“This group of young men had to play at their maximum ability level every night in this tournament to give ourselves a chance to win,” Potter said. “And obviously we did that tonight against an incredible Jefferson team. We talked about it was going to take our A-plus game, so let’s bring our A-plus game and see what happens.”
The Crusaders weren’t loaded with talent, but they played with a cohesion and purpose that their opponents couldn’t match.
“When you trust your teammates, we don’t think anybody can beat us,” Jesuit senior guard Will Sheaffer said. “We proved that throughout the state tournament. We came in with a chip on our shoulder each game.
“Nobody stopped us, so we just went ahead and did it. We’re all clutch dudes, and we performed.”
The Democrats paid respect to Potter and the Crusaders after the game.
“You can’t take nothing away from the legendary Potter. He knows what he’s doing,” said Jefferson coach Pat Strickland, who has five titles.
Democrats senior guard Marcus Tsohonis said of Potter: “He’s a great coach. He has them under control. Their guys make big shots, and they play disciplined D.”
Jesuit led 26-18 late in the second quarter when Jefferson senior Keylin Vance got hot, hitting three three-pointers to pull his team even at 29-29.
Down 31-29 at half, the Democrats cranked up their energy in the third quarter. They went on a 10-0 run -- getting two fading jumpers from Tsohonis -- to lead 41-35.
Jefferson led until Williams began to heat up early in the fourth quarter. Williams made three three-pointers and converted a three-point play as Jesuit surged ahead 55-51.
“You’ve got to guard him so deep, and he’s able to get by you and pull up for a jump shot,” Potter said of Williams. “Just super effective one-on-one.”
The Democrats didn’t have an answer for him.
“We know that Aiden Williams is a shooter,” Strickland said. “You’ve got to have a hand in his pocket so he can’t get the shot off. That was one of our strategies, not to let him shoot the threes.”
When Williams made a steal and fed Sheaffer for a three-point play, the lead was 58-51 with 3:17 left. Bieker made two free throws to push the lead to 64-53 with 1:40 remaining, and the Crusaders withstood a desperate comeback attempt by Tsohonis and the Democrats to seal the win.
As his players cut down the nets, Potter reflected on how his team became a champion.
“It’s a combination of kids really believing in one another, knowing where the ball needs to go, who’s got the hot hand,” Potter said. “Defensively, one of the better teams we’ve had rotation-wise, focusing on what we needed to do even when we were outmanned.”
Bieker scored a game-high 22 points, making 10 of 12 free throws. Sheaffer added 11 points and four assists for Jesuit, which shot 46.3 percent, including 8 of 18 on three-pointers.
The Crusaders were playing in their first final since 2015, when they fell to West Linn. They lost to West Linn in the 2016 quarterfinals and were eliminated by Jefferson the last two years, in the 2017 playoffs and 2018 quarterfinals.
Jesuit won it with four senior starters.
“I wish I could stay another four years with Coach,” Williams said. “I honestly love him so much. In my opinion, he’s the best coach in Oregon, maybe on the West Coast.”
Jefferson got 16 points from Vance, 16 points and nine rebounds from Tsohonis and 15 points and 13 rebounds from sophomore post Nate Rawlins-Kibonge.
Tsohonis, part of Jefferson’s last title team in 2017, lamented the missed opportunity as he moves on to a college career at Washington.
“I felt like we didn’t come out strong, and that’s the thing that we vouched on the whole time,” said Tsohonis, who shot 5 of 23 from the field. “If we came out strong and got a lead, I feel like we could’ve kept it.
“But we were playing down and we had to push ourselves to come back, and they’re a really good, disciplined team, so it was pretty tough.”