Jesuit's Kendra Hicks looks to score against the defense of Beaverton's Faith Meyer on Tuesday night. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Jesuit's Kendra Hicks looks to score against the defense of Beaverton's Faith Meyer on Tuesday night. (Photo by Jon Olson)

PORTLAND – Jesuit senior post Kendra Hicks wasn't short on motivation heading into Tuesday night's Metro League girls basketball showdown with visiting Beaverton.

The 6-foot-1 Hicks was intent on helping the reigning league champion Crusaders gain sole possession of first place. She wanted to grab four rebounds to reach 1,000 in her career. And she couldn't afford to let her sister Ashlyn – a freshman for the Beavers – win in the first match-up between them.

Fortunately for Hicks, everything fell into place as the No. 8 Crusaders (13-3, 5-0) won 46-43 over the Beavers (11-7, 5-1), surviving a frantic comeback in the final 30 seconds. Hicks had eight points and 18 rebounds, hiking her career total to 1,014, a feat that is even more impressive considering her freshman season was shortened by the COVID crisis.

“I'm happy about the 1,000 rebounds, but I really, really wanted this win tonight,” said the Nevada-bound Hicks, who ranks No. 15 on the state's all-time rebound list. “My whole team really wanted this win. It was a big one for us.”

Hicks, who averaged 11 rebounds in each of the last two seasons, is having a career year. Heading into Tuesday's game, she was putting up 13.0 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. And as the only returning starter from last year's 6A semifinal team, she is showing the way for the Crusaders, who have won eight in a row.

“This group has the potential to be really good,” Hicks said. “A lot of people are stepping up and filling those shoes that we had last year. I've always been the youngest on the team, and now I'm the captain and the leader. I make it a priority to make sure I'm a good leader and a teammate.”

Jesuit coach Jason Lowery raved over Hicks' dominance on the glass.

“She has a gift,” Lowery said. “She thinks every ball is hers. She pursues every one. She does her work early. She goes after everything with two hands. She's a fundamentally sound, relentless rebounder. Nevada is getting a special one.”

Beaverton predictably stacked its defense against Hicks, forcing the other Crusaders to make plays. Junior point guard Audrey Bayless scored a game-high 13 points, hitting three three-pointers. Sophomore guard Amani Lubrano added nine points.

Jesuit led 21-20 at half and spent the second half fending off the Beavers. Hicks had a putback and two free throws in the fourth quarter as the Crusaders opened a 46-36 lead with 3:14 remaining.

“I let everyone else do their thing, and then slowly but surely wear the defense out,” Hicks said. “And they forget to box me out one play, and then I get a rebound. I slowly start making my impact offensively as the game goes on.”

Hicks has become accustomed to facing double-teams this season.

“She's unselfish, and she'll keep posting,” Lowery said. “I thought in the fourth quarter, she didn't give in. We figured some stuff out about where to put her. She knows how important her gravity is. She plays with tremendous gravity for us.”

With the win, Hicks gained the upper hand over her sister. In the fourth quarter, though, she was called for a shooting foul on Ashlyn, who split two free throws.

“It was a block. I disagree with the call, but that's OK,” Kendra said. “I've been talking about playing her since the season started. This has been a whole family event that was upcoming.”

Could she have lived with a Beaverton win?

“I don't think I could have,” Kendra said. “Before this game, I had a lot of confidence in us. Me and my teammates, we made the decision, we weren't going to lose.”

Trailing 46-37 inside of 30 seconds remaining, Beaverton threw a scare into the Crusaders. Senior guard Indie Browning made a three-pointer with 19 seconds left, and after a steal, she hit another triple to make it 46-43 with 6.7 seconds remaining.

After Jesuit senior Evelyn Tossi missed two free throws, the Beavers rebounded and called timeout with 4.0 seconds to go. Browning caught a long inbound pass near the sideline at mid-court and pushed toward the three-point line, but her running, off-handed shot didn't come close at the buzzer.

Browning had three three-pointers and a team-high 11 points and senior Anna Sandstrom added 10 points for Beaverton, which had its six-game winning streak snapped. The Beavers, state champions in 2022, also are rebuilding after graduating four starters from a state quarterfinal team.

“I've been telling my girls all week, 'We lost a lot, they lost a lot, but it's still Beaverton and Jesuit,'” Lowery said. “We knew it was going to be a battle.

“League play is a grind. We talked about how you've got to get grimy in league play. Beaverton is a championship program. That's championship DNA.”

Beaverton also is playing its first season under coach John Naro, the husband of former coach Kathy Naro, who stepped down after going 124-34 in six seasons. The Beavers have been finding their footing in league play, but struggled against Jesuit's defense, going the first 7:40 of the fourth quarter without a field goal.

“This is good for us, hopefully, for a tournament game,” John Naro said. “If we do get in the playoffs, we probably have to travel somewhere, and this is a good environment.”

Naro said he is learning as a coach after years of assisting his wife.

“It's so much easier to just watch a game and give suggestions,” he said. “I learned so much from Kathy. A lot of times I just say in my mind, 'What would Kathy do?' We've been in so many battles together, I know different things that she would do. But I've got a long ways to go.”