Eastside Catholic lit up another basketball court in winning the Metro League girls basketball tournament championship Friday night.
The top-ranked squad in Class 3A beat No. 3 Garfield for the program’s first league title. It took one quarter, the second, for the Crusaders to breakdown the veteran Bulldogs en route to a 56-41 win at Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion.
“This is one of the most exciting moments in my entire life,” said Eastside freshman Malia Samuels, the Metro League girls MVP, who led her team with 21 points and six assists.
Eastside (21-1) earned the No. 1 seed into the Class 3A SeaKing District tourney. It will play Tuesday against the winner of Saturday’s Bellevue vs. Roosevelt game.
The program is experiencing its first success since placing second at state in 2002.
“The girls were confident going into the game,” said Eastside coach Katie Farr, who doesn’t have any upperclassmen on her roster. “We love the competition, but I give all the credit to my girls. Those girls won it, and they work hard. So, to be able to beat a team like that is amazing.”
Down two points at the end of the first quarter, Crusaders freshmen Mjracle Sheppard and Izzy Sullivan each nailed three pointers to open the second. Eastside led 21-11 after a shot in the paint by sophomore ZaZa Walton with 4:48 left in the half. And a fastbreak layin by Samuels late in the quarter helped the Crusaders enter halftime up 25-17.
The Bulldogs (16-6) were behind 29-21 following a shot under the basket by senior Meghan Fiso with 5:42 left in the third quarter. But teammate Kia Wood couldn’t control a steal she collected on the ensuing play. Eastside recovered and went on 14-1 run to bury Garfield.
Walton and Sullivan finished with 12 points each for Eastside.
“We didn’t close out on their shooters,” Bulldogs senior Dalayah Daniels said. “They were hungrier than us. But were not satisfied, and this definitely isn’t the last of us.”
Daniels, a California-commit, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Garfield lost at Eastside 73-49 on Jan. 31. Daniels, who was recently named a McDonald’s All-American, suffered right ankle injury in December and has only played in eight games.
Daniels led her team with 15 points while Fiso added 12. They’ll be in action next Tuesday against the winner of Saturday’s Lakeside vs. Seattle Prep game.
The Metro League didn’t host its 2019 tournament because of snowstorms that blanketed the region and forced Seattle Public Schools to cancel classes for nearly two weeks. Garfield was awarded the girls championship due to having the best regular-season record.
The Bulldogs advanced to win the Class 3A SeaKing District title and placed fifth in the state tournament.
But Eastside didn’t care about any of that experience Friday. Their tournament championship caps an undefeated run through the league.
“We knew what we could do and that we could win if we stuck together and played our game,” Samuels said.