SAMMAMISH — When Bill Liley took the job as head basketball coach at Eastside Catholic, he knew it wasn’t going to be easy to mold the Crusaders into a successful program. After all, Eastside Catholic is not known for its basketball.
That makes Friday’s 71-66 win over O’Dea all the more special for the third-year head coach. The win gave Eastside Catholic (16-3) the Metro League Mountain Division title. A division championship is no more than a symbolic measure in Metro, but it is important for the Crusaders, nonetheless.
“It was tough and at times I wasn’t sure if we really wanted to see it built; I didn’t know if they really wanted it to be a program that was a championship contender,” said Liley about his first couple years. “People have supported it and these kids have just done everything we’ve asked them to do — everything. They work really hard and it’s really fun to see hard work pay off.”
It appeared that Eastside Catholic would wrap up the division quickly on Friday after building its lead to as much as 15 midway through the fourth quarter. O’Dea (12-7) wouldn’t go away, though, chipping away at the Crusaders lead.
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The Irish eventually tied the score, 64-64, with two minutes left on a Jamie Orme bucket. Matisse Thybulle responded for Eastside Catholic though, and after an O’Dea miss, Nathan Christie gave the Crusaders a four-point lead with a short jumper.
Tyler Kidd gave O’Dea hope with a layup, cutting the deficit to 68-66, but Zach Wallin shut the door with a three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and the Irish were unable to hit a shot in the waning moments.
Mandrell Worthy led the Crusaders with 21 points, while Christie added 19. Orme scored all of his team-high 20 points in the second half for the Irish.
“How about the fact that for the first time Eastside Catholic gets to be mentioned in the same sentence as O’Dea or Seattle Prep — teams that have dominated this division forever,” Liley said. “We get a chance to take a turn. That’s pretty neat for our school, for our kids and definitely what we’re trying to do with our program.”