BELLEVUE — Matisse Thybulle is confident. Not cocky, but sure of what Eastside Catholic can do on the basketball court.
“With all the preparation our team puts in, I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat us,” the junior guard said moments after the Crusaders demolished Timberline 80-40 on Friday to advance to the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
And yes, Thybulle means nationally ranked Rainier Beach, which has already topped Eastside Catholic three times this season.
“If we take it all the way, I think we have a chance at them,” Thybulle said. “We’ve been putting in things bit by bit. I think we have as good a chance as anyone to beat them.”
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To get that matchup, both teams will need to continue to win, something that came quite easily for the No. 3 Crusaders (21-5) on Friday at Bellevue College. Eastside Catholic never trailed, jumping out to a 25-4 lead after the first quarter and extending that advantage throughout.
Eastside Catholic easily shed the Timberline full-court press, getting wide open layups in transition. In the half-court offense, the Crusaders found open cutters going to the hoop, which translated into high-percentage shots. Eastside Catholic shot 32 for 54 (59.3 percent) from the field, including 12 for 21 from behind the arc (57.1 percent).
“We spend more time on breaking presses than probably any team in the state because of the league we play in,” Eastside Catholic coach Bill Liley said. “We see a different style of press every night. It gets us ready for this type of deal here. When a team presses us, we get to the point where our kids kind of smile and they say, ‘You know what, they’re giving us two points.’”
Thybulle scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the first quarter and Nathan Christie and Zach Wallin each added 13. Washington signee Donaven Dorsey had 11 points for Timberline (12-12), which shot 32.6 percent from the field.
Rainier Beach 61, Mercer Island 55
Mercer Island pushed No. 1 Rainier Beach to its limit, almost ending the Vikings’ national-championship aspirations before they even got to the Tacoma Dome. Rainier Beach managed to pull out a win at Bellevue College, though, advancing to the next week’s state tournament.
The No. 8 Islanders (18-8) used a 10-0 run to close the gap to 52-50 with three minutes left, but the Vikings (26-0) responded with four straight points to gain breathing room. Daniel Sims responded with a three-pointer for Mercer Island, but David Crisp hit one of his own for Rainier Beach and the Islanders were unable to get it back to a one-possession game.
Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea said he was displeased with his team’s effort, especially on the defensive end.
“That’s the downside to winning as easy as we’ve won this year,” he said. “Kids have a tendency to forget the things that work for us.”