Jalen McGruder's three-pointers helped top-ranked Garfield beat Ballard, and No. 2 Bothell edged Issaquah in the KingCo 4A tournament semifinals.
KIRKLAND — The top-ranked Garfield boys basketball team plugged into an unexpected power source Friday night.
Jalen McGruder knocked down four three-pointers in the first half en route to 14 points as the Bulldogs turned back Ballard 55-41 at Juanita High School in the semifinals of the KingCo 4A tournament.
McGruder, a 6-foot senior guard, opened up the floor early with his long-distance marksmanship, and the Bulldogs turned on the electricity on defense in the fourth quarter to break open a close game.
“My job is to shoot the ball and knock it down when I’m open,” said McGruder, who entered averaging 5.3 points, but 10.3 in his last six games. “My coaches have been begging me all season to shoot, but now I’m really buying into it.
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“I felt bad when I wasn’t pulling my weight.”
Trevaunté Williams, despite sitting most of the second quarter, finished with a game-high 17 points for Garfield.
The victory, which qualified the Bulldogs (21-1) for regionals, sends them to the KingCo 4A title game at 8:15 p.m. next Friday at Juanita against second-ranked Bothell (20-2). Bothell held off Issaquah 54-53 in the other tournament semifinal.
Garfield beat the Cougars 86-71 at Bothell on Jan. 22 in their only meeting this season.
Ballard (15-8) faces Newport (14-8) in a loser-out game Tuesday. The Beavers were led by John Verduin’s 12 points.
Garfield bolted to a 15-4 lead and led by as many as 15 in the first half. McGruder hit three three-pointers in a span of 3:45 in the first quarter.
“We call (Jalen) ‘Knockdown’ for a reason, and we see it in practice every day,” said Garfield coach Ed Haskins.
Bothell 54, Issaquah 53
The second-ranked Cougars jumped to 15-0 lead in the first 3:30 and were up 24-5, but it took a Perrion Callandret steal on Issaquah’s final inbounds play with 2.4 seconds left to seal the triumph in the winner-to-regionals semifinals.
UCLA-bound Zach LaVine poured in 25 points to lead Bothell.
The Eagles (16-6) stormed back to make a game out of it, but dropped into a loser-out contest against Inglemoor (10-12) on Tuesday. Issaquah must win three more games to reach regionals.
Ty Gibson scored 18 points lead the Eagles’ comeback bid. The Issaquah guard tallied 14 points in the second half and hit three three-pointers.
Bothell’s Josh Martin missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation with 14.4 seconds left to give the Eagles one last hope. But Bothell hunkered down on defense and deflected the ball out of bounds with 2.4 seconds.
The Cougars are making their second trip to regionals since 1997.