Jesuit junior Pat Kilfoil goes up for two of his team-high 21 points in Friday's win over South Medford. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Jesuit junior Pat Kilfoil goes up for two of his team-high 21 points in Friday's win over South Medford. (Photo by Jon Olson)

PORTLAND – Before visiting South Medford could get its legs from a five-hour bus ride, Jesuit was off and running Friday night in the round of 16 of the 6A boys basketball playoffs.

The No. 8 seed Crusaders (18-8) stormed out of the gate by scoring the game's first eight points, setting them up for a wire-to-wire 60-47 win over the No. 9 Panthers (19-7) that secures a berth in the state tournament next week at the Chiles Center.

“When we play like that, when we've got all our dudes, playing as a team, I think we're the best team in the state, by far,” Jesuit junior guard Pat Kilfoil said. “When we trust each other, and everyone's playing for each other, not selfish or anything, we're so good.”

Kilfoil scored 21 points and freshman Isaac Bongen added 19 points for Jesuit, which advanced to a quarterfinal date against top-seeded Central Catholic on March 6. The Crusaders lost to Central Catholic 55-51 at home Dec. 8.

It will be the Crusaders' first state tournament since winning the 2019 title. The COVID crisis wiped out the tournaments in 2020 and 2021 and they lost to West Linn in the round of 16 the last two seasons.

Jesuit coach Gene Potter, who has guided the team to seven state championships, said it feels “like it's been forever” since the Crusaders' last state tournament, until considering the circumstances.

“It's always special, regardless,” Potter said. “For kids, it's never like, 'Oh, you've been there forever.' They only have a three- or possibly four-year career. For these guys to get that experience, I'm just super excited for them.”

The Crusaders are hungry to show what they can do.

“To be honest, we just wanted this so bad,” Kilfoil said. “Before the playoffs, we weren't playing as well as we could've been as a team. Our main thing was like, we've got to trust each other. All of us get involved. No one in the state can really compete with us, I think, if we play like that.”

Of Jesuit's seven in-state losses, five have come against teams ranked in the top 10 of the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll. The Crusaders finished as runners-up to second-seeded Southridge in the tough Metro League.

Friday, they had the look of a team that was battle-tested for the postseason.

“You play in the LSI, you play in the Metro, and you've seen most of the teams that are in the playoffs,” Potter said. “I think we were kind of geared up for that kind of game. One game to get to the Chiles Center, let's go.”

Jesuit made its first seven shots – getting two three-pointers from Bongen – and opened a 12-point lead late in the first quarter. The Crusaders pushed the lead as high as 35-17 midway through the second quarter, and the Panthers got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.

“That's the advantage of playing at home,” South Medford coach James Wightman said. “They came out and they shot the heck out of it. They're pretty good. They're physical on the defensive end. They're just tough.

“Pat Kilfoil is pretty dang good. And they're able to swing it. They've got other guys. Bongen is really good. They can swing it to him and he can knock down shots.”

Bongen finished with four three-pointers and Kilfoil had two.

“Offensively, for the most part, I'm really pleased with how we played,” Potter said.

South Medford senior point guard Jackson Weiland, a four-year starter, scored a team-high 23 points. Senior forward Ty Dahlin added 17 points for the Panthers, who had their 13-game winning streak snapped.