SAMMAMISH – Eastside Catholic boys basketball coach Brent Merritt received an interesting call Saturday.

“Our best player told me we need to run more,” Merritt said of the request from junior Nolan Hickman. “We’ve got to get in shape (and) we’ve been lighting the fire under Shane (Nowell), trying to get him to turn it up a bit more.”

If the Crusaders need more conditioning, it didn’t show in a Metro League matchup with Ingraham on Tuesday. Two missed dunks were seemingly Eastside’s only blunders in an 87-55 victory at their own gym.

Nowell, a 6-foot-6 junior guard, led all scorers with 24 points and had nine rebounds. Hickman added 20 points.

“We can do much better than we are now,” Nowell said. “We’ve got to start somewhere and we’re doing pretty well for it being the beginning of the season. But we could share the ball even more than we already do and play collectively on defense.”

Eastside, which is second in the Seattle Times’ Class 3A boys basketball rankings, outscored Ingraham 17-2 in the closing 4:40 of the opening quarter to blow the game open.

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Nowell got the run started with a smooth pass to Isaac Ticeson for a bucket. Eastside junior JT Tuimoloau, who scored the go-ahead touchdown in his school’s victories for the Class 3A football state championship earlier this month, checked in and had two putbacks to keep the spree going.

Nowell closed the run with a three-pointer and a layin for a 22-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Rams opened the second quarter with three turnovers. Eastside’s lead ballooned to 31-13 after Nowell set up Grant Hunt for a three-pointer with 5:31 left in the half.

Up 41-23 at the break, the Crusaders opened the second half on a 19-3 run. Ingraham guard Ja’Von Ervin scored his team’s first field goal of the half with 3:31 on the clock in the third quarter.

Eastside closed the quarter up 68-37. Merritt began rotating his reserves into the lineup to close out the win.

Rams junior Latrell Jones led his team with 13 points while Ervin added 12.

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“We kicked them in the mouth early and had a different type of intensity on defense,” Hickman said. “Our bench is our main factor. They turn us up on the court and off the court. But Shane, he did amazing this game. We need that every game.”

Ingraham played without senior Mitchell Saxen, a Saint Mary’s-commit. The 6-10 player injured his lower back in September and hopes to make his season debut by mid-January.

Ingraham, which is ranked fourth, and Eastside are emerging programs in the Metro League. The Crusaders defeated the Rams, 90-59, last December as part of an 18-game win streak to start the season. The Rams (2-1, 2-1 Metro) collected a 50-43 win in the SeaKing District tournament but fell 65-37 in the Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals.

Eastside (3-0, 3-0) hosts Bishop Blanchet on Friday before traveling to play in the Les Schwab tournament in Oregon next week. The Crusaders open against defending Oregon boys Class 5A state champion Wilsonville and could face famed Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which is ranked ninth in the country, according to MaxPreps.

“Ingraham beat us last year, so we still take that personal,” Merritt said. “We were upset the big fella couldn’t play (but) Ingraham’s going to be good and hurt some people’s feelings this year. We’ll be ready.”