The lights? They weren’t as bright. The venue? Smaller and far less populated.
But the lights were on in the West Seattle High gym on Tuesday night. With players, coaches and officials on the floor.
The Garfield Bulldogs might have to wait another 11 months to defend their state basketball titles, but both the boys and girls were successful against the host Wildcats as the Metro League began a COVID-19 delayed and truncated season.
The Garfield girls got the evening started with a 65-36 win. The boys followed with a 56-23 victory.
For the girls, a little bit of familiarity punctuated their first foray onto the floor since beating Lake Washington for the Class 3A title at the Tacoma Dome more than a year ago.
During that run, Meghan Fiso captured all sorts of accolades – 3A tournament most valuable player, Star Times player of the year – before heading off to play her freshman college season at Michigan. In the stands, her eighth-grader sister Katie watched it all.
On Tuesday, Meghan Fiso was in the gym as Katie made her Garfield debut.
“It’s always been me watching her,” Katie Fiso said with a smile. “I’ve just got to show her, I’m the better new her.”
The younger Fiso had herself a nice debut, unofficially dishing out 10 assists to go along with seven points.
“It’s fun seeing her,” said Meghan Fiso, who also confirmed she has a new college home, having left Michigan for San Diego State. “She can really tear this league up.”
Many of those assists went to the lone senior on this Garfield squad, Desiree Lane, who poured in 21 points to lead all scorers. Then, Lane received a gift just after the game when her letter of intent to Cal State-East Bay came in an email.
“She’s in shock,” Garfield coach Marvin Hall said. “She’s come so far. When she got here, she didn’t know her left from her right.”
Getting the chance at even a shortened senior season became important for Lane.
“It’s such a great opportunity for me to be able to have input and help the girls out,” Lane said. “I can have that lead role. I play because I enjoy the game. This year, the goal is just to win every game. Our mindset is just on the next game.”
That next game will be the Garfield home opener against Eastside Catholic on Friday. What happens beyond that could be up to Gov. Jay Inslee when he reviews COVID-19 numbers next Monday.
That review could move King County back into Phase 2 from Phase 3. Such a backtrack could affect the rest of the Metro season – but nobody at West Seattle was sure on Tuesday to what extent.
“I haven’t even brought that to the group,” Garfield boys coach Brandon Roy said. “We’ve got nine games. We’re planning on the full season. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Teams certainly want to hear more announcements like those from the West Seattle public address announcer, whose statement of “We finally get to see some boys basketball in the Metro League,” was met with a round of applause from the small but enthusiastic gathering of participants and parents.
It took the new-look Bulldogs boys a moment to get going.
Isaiah Stewart finally made Garfield’s first field goal of the game with 2:20 left in the first quarter. It still gave the Bulldogs a lead, 5-2, and Garfield would never trail again.
The Bulldogs held West Seattle to only two field goals on 25 attempts in the first half while Garfield extended to an 8-2 advantage after one quarter and 26-4 at the half.
“We’ve got a lot of good guards,” Roy said. “I was happy with our defense.”
The offense did finally get going. Jaylin Stewart eventually scored 24 for the Bulldogs to lead all scorers. And Garfield will move forward until it can’t.
“It’s basketball,” Roy said. “For me as a coach, I tell them to take it as an opportunity. They were all sitting around playing video games before the season.”
As the girls, the Garfield boys also are young, which makes this season a prime chance to see improvement heading forward.
“There is a bigger picture, a plan,” Roy said. “We get 10 games to mature them and come back (in 2021-22) with a very veteran team.”