Jaylen Nowell hit a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a lead in the fourth quarter and scored a game-high 25 points in the 64-60 win.
The buzz will be about Jaylen Nowell’s return.
How the senior guard, who’s been out with a left knee injury, hit one of his Jaylen-esque shots at a critical moment to help Garfield win. That is one snapshot from No. 2 Garfield’s heated Metro League boys basketball matchup with No. 4 Rainier Beach on Friday.
With the Bulldogs down 59-57, Nowell hit a deep, off-balance three-pointer at the top of the key with 2:15 left to give his team the lead. The packed gym – which sold out at 6 p.m. for a 9 p.m. start-time – erupted as Garfield went on to seal the win, 64-60.
But that’s not how Nowell saw the game. He was watching teammate Eddie Turner, a junior point guard playing his first varsity season, make the defensive plays and free-throws that kept the Vikings from regaining control of a game it led 36-20 at halftime.
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Turner’s biggest play was with Garfield leading by two points with 13 seconds left. Rainier Beach point guard Khalil Shabazz had the ball, darting for the hoop to possibly tie the score. But Turner tipped the ball and drew a jumpball call that gave possession to Garfield.
“That was the one play that I can say really helped us win this,” said Nowell, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “I was behind the play and saw that (Shabazz) was going to split the defense and I was thinking I could step over and hopefully take a charge. But they ended up getting it and it was a bonus.”
The Vikings had to foul, Turner stepping to the line to make the two shots with four seconds left in the game. Rainier Beach junior Kevin Porter Jr. missed a desperation three-pointer as the final buzzer sounded, one of his three missed attempts in the final two minutes of the game.
Garfield students stormed the court and teammates encircled Turner in celebration. In the last meeting of the storied series between the schools, the Vikings (8-3, 8-2 Metro) defeated the Bulldogs (13-2, 10-0) en route to the Class 3A state championship.
“This is my first big game, so I’m proud of myself for working hard,” said Turner, whose free throws were his only points of the game. “Coach (Ed Haskins) trusted me after I played bad in the first half. I’m continuing to learn and everybody is helping me.”
Shabazz helped Rainier Beach open the game with intensity. His three-pointer with 6:59 left in the second quarter gave the Vikings a 22-8 lead, making an angry Haskins call a timeout.
“Are you going to stop these guys?” was a question Haskins repeatedly asked his players in the huddle. It wasn’t until Turner set up senior Curtis Walker in the paint to tie the score at 55 points apiece that Garfield started to match Rainier Beach’s intensity.
“We wouldn’t have won the game if Eddie hadn’t been the other ball-handler and help us finish the game,” Haskins said. “The decision-making he made at the end of the game showed that he’s a leading point guard in this state. He’s worked extremely hard to get where he is and I appreciate his patience.”
Shabazz led Rainier Beach with 19 points.