When Djuan Piper’s jumper found the bottom of the net and Rainier Beach had won its third straight state title, the bigger picture immediately became clear. The Vikings were headed to New York City to play in a tournament that unofficially decides a national champion.
The controversial ruling by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in February allowed Rainier Beach (30-0) to participate in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament in April, an invitation that was contingent on the Vikings finishing the season undefeated.
“It hasn’t even dawned on me yet,” coach Mike Bethea said. “I’m just going to enjoy this one here for about 10 days and then get back to work and think about New York.”
It is the seventh state title for the 19-year head coach, which is a Washington record. Rainier Beach also set a boys team record with its third consecutive championship.
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The Vikings weren’t the only historically successful team to come away from the Tacoma Dome with a first-place trophy. Garfield won the 4A tournament, a state record 12th title for the Bulldogs, although the first since 1998.
“We’re just part of a legacy,” head coach Ed Haskins said. “That’s why we had it on the back of our uniforms.”
It’s a bit surprising that Garfield hasn’t won a title in more than a decade considering the players that have come through the system. Former NBA star Brandon Roy, current Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten and former Washington star Will Conroy all were unsuccessful in their attempts.
It was Tramaine Isabell who was finally able to lead the Bulldogs back to a championship. The Washington State signee refused to rank himself among the top players to come out of Garfield, but he did admit he is trying to emulate the best guards to come out of the area.
“I want to be a great guard to come out of Seattle and it seems like every guard that has ended up doing something has won a state title,” Isabell said. “The Aaron Brookses, Peyton Sivas won two. I want to try to imitate those guys if I can.”