PJ Fuller scores 33 points as the Bulldogs jump out to an early lead and cruise past the Vikings 100-72.
Garfield was beginning to get a reputation for slow starts.
Against crosstown rival Rainier Beach, the No. 1 Bulldogs started the anticipated boys basketball game on fire and didn’t let up until the final buzzer. Junior transfer PJ Fuller nailed four NBA-range three-pointers from the top of the key in the second quarter to ignite a 100-72 win on Friday night.
“I’m finally starting to shoot it consistently,” said Fuller of the three-pointers. He finished with 33 points to lead four players in double figures for Garfield.
“I didn’t expect us to put up 100 points,” he continued. “They’re a good team and I thought it was going to be tougher. We just got it done and I’m proud of my guys.”
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Garfield (13-0, 9-0 Metro) remains undefeated while handing No. 3 Rainier Beach (9-3, 7-1) its first league loss.
Rainier Beach sold out its modest gym by 5:30 p.m. Former Garfield coach Ed Haskins, who’s now an assistant for the Washington State men’s team, former Beach star Nate Robinson and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer were some of the faces in the crowd. But the packed gymnasium was quelled by the third quarter as fans started leaving with the Vikings down 71-47.
“I’m numb. This is (my) worst defeat in Rainier Beach history,” said Mike Bethea, who took over the Vikings program in 1995. “I’ve never gotten beat like that. It’s disheartening.
“It was almost like fool’s gold. (Our players) were looking at how Garfield had struggled against some of the teams we had blown out. Like I told them, Garfield is going to come in here ready to play. Unfortunately we didn’t execute and they took us out to the woodshed.”
Beach was cooled early by foul trouble. Senior Kevin Porter Jr., the team’s leading scorer, tried to penetrate to the hoop multiple times in the first half. He was consistently met by a Garfield double team, Fuller taking two charges.
Porter was tagged with four offensive fouls in the first half. Some questioned why Bethea kept his star in the game after the third foul, which was with 6:56 left in the second quarter. Porter was replaced by junior Nate Murray when he was called for the fourth with 2:17 on the clock and his team down 43-27.
“We were struggling so bad; it was a gamble and I lost,” Bethea said.
Porter played the entire second half without fouling and finished with 25 points.
Garfield was the Class 3A state tournament runner-up last season. It lost to Nathan Hale, whose starting point guard was Fuller. He transferred back to Garfield, where he played as a freshman, under the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s hardship rule.
With the Bulldogs, Fuller gives coach Brandon Roy three high-caliber ballhandlers. Depth in the backcourt and inside with J’Raan Brooks and Jamon Kemp was too much for Beach to handle. Brooks finished with 16 points and Kemp added 13.
“We knew this was going to be a tough environment, so I didn’t have to stress little things this week,” Roy said of preparing for the matchup. “They were already like, ‘Coach, we’re doing this. Coach, we’re ready to go.’ They wanted to practice and I’ve got to give my guys all the credit.
“But it’s not a signature win. They’re a good team, but there are still some things we need to work on. That’s bringing it each night. It can’t just be because it’s Rainer Beach. We have to bring that same focus and same enthusiasm that we had tonight no matter who we play.”