TACOMA — Seattle’s best, and the state’s finest too.
The Garfield High School boys completed a dominating run through the Class 3A state basketball tournament with a 69-44 victory over Metro League rival and defending state champion O’Dea on Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
“This is amazing, just amazing,” said Garfield senior Tari Eason, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP. “There is nothing like it.”
The two schools, separated by just over a mile in Central Seattle, settled state bragging rights 32 miles south. It looked like a dream matchup, with the two teams coming off dominating victories in the semifinals. But Garfield (25-4), who was 0-2 against O’Dea (23-6) this season coming into the game, quickly turned it into a nightmare for the Irish.
The Bulldogs, who won the Metro League title three weeks ago, went on an 11-0 run to take a 16-5 lead. And try as they might, the Irish could never climb out of the hole.
That’s because Eason wouldn’t let them. The 6-foot-8 senior had his way inside and outside in the first half, with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and finished off the half with a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 33-20 lead.
Meanwhile, Garfield was making life difficult for O’Dea star Paolo Banchero. The 6-foot-10 junior had to work hard for his 15 points, shooting 5 of 13 from the floor with the Bulldogs’ Kendall Munson doing most of the guarding on the Irish big man.
“I was looking forward to this,” Munson said of guarding Banchero. “The first two times we played them, they got us. I knew coming into this that we had to guard them and that’s what we did to get the W.”
Eason ended the third quarter in style too, banking in a 25-foot shot at the buzzer to give Garfield a 48-32 lead. It was that kind of night for the Bulldogs and their star.
“Big-time players step up in big-time moments in big-time games,” Eason said of his buzzer-beating baskets. “I think that’s what I had to do help my team win.”
Said Garfield coach Brandon Roy of Eason, a Cincinnati commit: “I tell him every game, use your teammates, but when you need to be Superman, do it.”
That’s what he did. Midway through the fourth quarter, Garfield guard Koren Johnson threw a pass off the backboard that Eason collected high in the air and slammed it viciously threw the hoop. That gave the Bulldogs a 61-36 lead, a fitting exclamation mark on their dominant victory.
Garfield’s most recent matchup against O’Dea, two weeks ago, was close at 64-60. Besides that, the Bulldogs had plenty of confidence after taking out No. 1 Eastside Catholic 71-46 a day earlier.
The question was could Garfield have a performance like that two straight nights. Yes, it could, and against a team that had beaten Rainier Beach 73-53 on Friday.
It was the third title in three years of high-school coaching for Brandon Roy. He coached undefeated Nathan Hale, led by national player of the year Michael Porter Jr., to the 2017 Class 3A title before winning with a loaded Garfield team in 2018.
Roy, who played at Garfield, took last year off. This team did not have the same expectations as the previous two he had coached. A young team, it fell to 9-3 after a 76-56 loss to O’Dea in early January. But the Bulldogs peaked at the right time, winning by 21, 25 and 25 at the state tournament.
“I sat around last year just thinking about the game, thinking about coming back to coach and learning patience,” Roy said. “I wanted to learn patience. In the past, we were 28-0, 29-1, and this year I wanted to grow a young team and it was really cool to see us come to the state tournament and dominate. We had Michael Porter Jr. and the best team in the nation (at Nathan Hale) and we didn’t run through the tournament this way.”
Roy told his team “to try and win it for the school,” which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
“This community has done so much for me and for the kids, and they will remember this, that in our 100th year we won the state championship.” Roy said.