Behind Paolo Banchero's 22 points, O'Dea made the title game by beating top-seeded Eastside Catholic 49-41.
TACOMA — It’s been a long string of untimely injuries for the O’Dea boys basketball team.
And that has led to some uncertain times and inconsistent play.
But the Irish are as healthy as they’ve been all season and at the right time.
Paolo Banchero, the 6-foot-9 sophomore sensation, has the 11th-seeded Irish rolling, and the team’s depth has grown through all the injuries.
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The broad-shouldered Banchero led the charge with 22 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots as O’Dea avenged an earlier defeat from top-seeded Eastside Catholic and bounced the Crusaders from state-title contention 49-41 on Friday night in a Class 3A state semifinal at the Tacoma Dome. O’Dea will play Mount Spokane in the title game Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Irish’s second-half defense won the game along with great free-throw shooting.
“Defense had to be focused on today and it was a defensive battle and we knew if we stopped them, we’d come out on top,” Banchero said. “This has been more of a team thing. We were doubted all year. People didn’t take us seriously because we lost a few games where I was injured, Noah (Williams) was injured, John (Christofilis) was injured.
“No one got to see us at full strength. We still aren’t at full strength, but we’re definitely coming together, and I think we’re letting people know we were for real the whole time.”
The Irish got some separation late in the second quarter, and led 39-29 on Noah Williams’ three-point play with a foul line jumper and free throw with 2:32 left in the game.
But Eastside Catholic kept coming. The Crusaders reeled off a 9-2 run to get within 41-38 when Nolan Hickman got a steal and a short pullup jumper at the other end with 36.9 seconds left. Hickman, who limped off with a right leg injury after being fouled with 8.1 seconds left, tallied 13 of his 15 points in the final 6:53 of the game.
“I knew coach (Jason) Kerr and his whole staff and all my teammates had faith in me,” said Misel after he pushed the lead to 43-38 with 36 seconds to go in the game. “I’ve put in the work to make the shots, so I went up there and shot them confidently and luckily they went in.”
O’Dea, in the title game for the first time since 2016 and with a chance at its first crown since 2007, closed the deal by going 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 36 seconds. The Irish finished 20 of 27 for the game to EC’s 8-of-16 accuracy from the foul line.
“We do a lot of free-throw shooting before and after practice and get a lot of shots up, so everybody’s comfortable when they get to the line,” Banchero said.
Leading scorer and rebounder Banchero (17.7 ppg, 11.1) missed three games with a concussion earlier in the season, Williams (16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) missed some games with an ankle injury and Christofilis was lost during the postseason to a toe injury.
“We haven’t been a full strength hardly at all this year,” Banchero said. “The first couple of games of Metro and the first two games (in a California tournament) we were at full strength, but after that someone was injured every game.”