TACOMA —Tramaine Isabell asked to switch his defensive assignment.
It was halftime and Isabell was already on the way to a big night offensively with 14 of his 19 points, but he wanted to guard Ty Gibson, Issaquah’s leading scorer.
The switch paid off as Gibson didn’t make a field goal in the second half and the No. 1 Bulldogs survived a last-second attempt by No. 10 Issaquah to win 61-59 and earn a chance to play Richland for the state title.
“He played the fourth quarter like state MVP basketball,” Garfield coach Ed Haskins said. “The whole fourth quarter he made the right reads, he didn’t force his shots, hit a big three-pointer, went to the basket, made a layup, dropped it off — there were so many things that he did that was just, he was state MVP. Period. In that game alone.”
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The game began with added emotion after Issaquah students posted racially-charged messages on social media sites following the team’s last matchup on Feb. 21.
The passion showed throughout, and the game wasn’t decided until Brian Watson’s off-balance leaner from the right sideline hit the side of the backboard at the buzzer. The miss set off a burst of emotion as the Bulldogs (26-1) celebrated their first title-game appearance since 2009, in front of a large student section.
Garfield had taken the lead with 19.6 seconds remaining after Jashaun Agosto was fouled attempting a three-pointer from the right wing. Agosto hit 2 of 3 from the line to give Garfield a 61-59 lead.
Issaquah (19-7) called a timeout with 4.5 seconds left, but its inbounds play was disrupted by the Garfield defense and Watson was forced to the baseline and into a wild shot.
“Lot of adversity, not just from Issaquah,” Haskins said. “There was a lot of adversity out there and a lot of things that were going on … we felt on the court and we had to endure.”
With the score tied at 36 halftime, the Bulldogs turned up the defensive intensity out of the break. The result was less on the offensive end from Isabell — he had five points after halftime — but it was a tradeoff that Garfield was willing to make. Issaquah made just three field goals in the second half, including one in the fourth.
The teams went back and forth for much of the second half, with the lead changing hands 18 times and the score tied on 19 occasions.
Isabell’s defensive effort kept Gibson to six second-half points. Gibson finished with 16, while Watson had 17.
“I tried to fill in where I’m supposed to fill in and tried to get my teammates involved,” said Isabell, who didn’t attempt a field goal in the third quarter. “Play some extra help defense, dive on the floor -— the little things. My guys were doing the same, so teamwork makes dream work.”