The Tomahawks were behind by 21 points, but they rallied behind the play of the UW signee. The Fighting Irish still move with the 63-53 win.
TACOMA — Marysville-Pilchuck’s deficit hit 21 points late in the third quarter against the O’Dea boys basketball team, and the WesCo 3A champs’ season was going off the rails.
RaeQuan Battle wasn’t having that. Not in the University of Washington-bound senior’s first trip to the Tacoma Dome.
“We had nothing to lose,” he said. “We were playing our hearts out, and I played my heart out.”
Fourth-ranked Marysville-Pilchuck stormed back to within seven points with more than three minutes remaining, but some of Battle’s late three-pointers rimmed out and O’Dea’s standout 6-foot-9 sophomore Paolo Banchero closed this out with key rebounds, blocks and free throws to secure the No. 11 Fighting Irish a 63-53 victory in Thursday’s Class 3A state quarterfinals.
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O’Dea advances to Friday’s semifinals against top-seeded Eastside Catholic at 7:15 p.m., while Marysville-Pilchuck heads to the consolation bracket against No. 10 Ingraham at 12:15 p.m., hoping to take a fifth- or sixth-place trophy.
“I’m excited,” Banchero said. “We lost here last year in the quarterfinals (against Garfield) so getting to the Final Four is big. But we feel like we can win a state championship. So we’re going to go out and get the win.”
But Battle was electric in M-P’s comeback. He scored a game-high 24 points with nine rebounds, but it was his array of dunks that finally ignited the Tomahawks into looking like a team that had won 19 consecutive games entering the day.
He flushed a fast-break jam, then caught an alley-oop for a flush and the next possession rebounded his own missed jumper with a tip-slam.
Later Battle blocked a shot and Aaron Kalab finished a three-point play on the other end as M-P converted a 50-29 deficit into 55-48 with 3:29 to play.
“RaeQuan is great,” Banchero said. “We played with him all summer, so we knew him the best and we had the best chance of guarding him. But he definitely turned it on in the second half and it was tough to stop him.”
But the normally sharpshooting Battle missed a pair of threes Marysville-Pilchuck’s next possession and a technical foul gave Banchero four free throws.
So O’Dea pushed its lead back to double digits and never looked back. Banchero had 19 points with 10 rebounds and a block he spiked off the backboard to put the stamp on the Irish’s win.
Banchero, the No. 6-ranked 2021 recruit in the country by 247Sports, is about as athletic, strong and skilled a sophomore as there is.
“Paolo is insane,” said Battle, who played with Banchero and O’Dea’s Noah Williams in AAU ball this past summer. “Playing with him in the 17U Elite Youth Basketball League, he did his part. He was handling business out there. I knew he was going to be a problem today.”
He was asked how much he’d like to see Banchero at UW with him in a couple years.
“That would be insane, yeah,” Battle laughed.
After anchoring the paint against Lincoln in the first round on Wednesday, Banchero and O’Dea limited Marysville-Pilchuck to just 17 points on 36 percent shooting in the first half on Thursday. Battle went just 1 for 11 from the three-point line in the game, although many struggle from the outside in their first game in the Tacoma Dome.
“They had a game yesterday and got their jitters out,” Battle said. “So they were coming in prepared, and I would say I was one of the only ones who has played against that type of aggressiveness (O’Dea had). The rest of my team was a little jittery.
“I had to step in and talk them through things. I was like, ‘You guys have to play through this.’ So we did and we showed that in the second half.”