Michael Porter Jr. scored 39 points in a heated game that saw the Raiders beat the Bulldogs 91-58.
When the top-ranked Nathan Hale boys basketball team kicks it into high gear at both ends of the floor, they simply can’t be beat.
That’s what second-ranked Garfield saw all night. And, it almost wasn’t fair.
Senior Michael Porter Jr. poured in 39 points and the Raiders limited the Bulldogs to just 16 points in the first half to cruise to a 91-58 triumph in the Metro League boys championship game on Friday night at Chief Sealth High School.
Nathan Hale (22-0), ranked as the No. 1 team in many national rankings, more than proved its point by bringing home the school’s first Metro League championship since 1992.
“I thought we were much more focused defensively in the first half where we let up against West Seattle [in the Metro semifinals] and thought that was the biggest difference,” said Nathan Hale coach Brandon Roy, a 2002 graduate of Garfield and former NBA All-Star. “We only gave up 16 points in the first half. Our offense will always come. We would have liked to play better defense in the second half, but we had a big lead and I thought guys relaxed a little bit.
“I was trying to let the guys know we are playing full, complete games.”
The third win this season over Garfield, the defending Metro champions, was the most emphatic.
“They’ve got two of the best players in the country, period,” Garfield coach Ed Haskins said of the Porter brothers, Michael Jr. and Jontay. “Jontay is a great player as well. But Michael, hands down, is one of the greatest players in the country. He maybe is the best player in the country, arguably. People say he’s No. 1, No. 2. He does a lot.”
Emotions spilled over with 3:26 remaining in the game as Garfield’s Jelani Howard and Hale’s Keegan Crosby got tangled up at the Raiders’ offensive end. There was some pushing and shoving and benches cleared.
Howard and Crosby were issued technical fouls.
With 2:57 left, Roy put his starters back in after the second team gave up a 7-0 run to allow the Bulldogs within 86-53. The move clearly miffed some of the assistant coaches for Garfield and they yelled their objections toward the Hale bench.
“That’s his team; he can do what he wants with his team,” Haskins said.
Said Roy: “I was upset with my team. We gave up too many points with our second team. I wanted to send a message to my team. We need everybody to be sharp. I wasn’t even thinking of the other team. I tried to get them back out, because I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to run up the score.”
Jontay Porter tallied 21 points and PJ Fuller III added 17 for the Raiders, who have benefitted from seven transfers this season.
Garfield (18-4) was led by the 18 points of UW commit Jaylen Nowell.
Hale led just 13-10 but erupted for a 28-5 run to take command 41-15 on Fuller’s rebound basket with 2:52 to go before halftime. The Raiders put up a six-point possession that started after Howard was charged with an intentional foul when he fouled Porter Jr. in the neck and head area with 4:10 left in the first half.
The six-point possession started when an incensed Haskins was hit with a technical foul when he rode the referees following the intentional call on Howard and another foul call. Porter Jr. hit four free throws — two for the Haskins technical — and Porter Jr. cut to the basket for a layin after a Garfield timeout.
“I just feel like we need a straight shake, man,” said Haskins, who expressed his displeasure with the officiating to the referees vehemently before sitting down after administering a five-minute tongue-lashing. “I’m trying to watch my words. I know nobody is perfect. I don’t ever coach a perfect game. Kids don’t play a perfect game. I know officials don’t officiate a perfect game. I just want a straight shake.
“I’m not blaming the officials tonight. You don’t lose by 30-something points because of officials.”
The Raiders scored the final eight points of the half to extend their lead to 33 points, 49-16, at the break. Porter Jr. and brother Jontay threw down a pair of dunks in the last 1:20 of the second quarter for Hale.
The Bulldogs kept up the effort in the second half and played Hale even (42-42) after the halftime break.
“You’ve got to start that fight at the beginning,” Haskins said. “You can’t get down like that against a team like that.”
The Raiders beat Garfield twice during the regular season, putting up an 87-64 thumping on Dec. 29 at the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore., and a 69-65 triumph on Jan. 27 in a Metro League contest on the Bulldogs’ floor.
Roy has seen teams play his talented club physical all season and the Bulldogs didn’t back down in that regard.
“With Michael there and Jontay and some other guys, our games are pretty emotional,” Roy said. “We usually get a flagrant foul [against them] every game. Teams try to beat us up. This is nothing new. It comes with the territory. I think it’s our team being pretty good, and they get a lot of attention. And, you know the social media. Everybody is giving all this hype.
“They beat us up a little bit. It’s part of the deal. We just have to keep our heads.”