Time was an issue in the Metro League boys basketball tournament title game Friday night.
The game clock didn’t start or didn’t stop multiple times during the matchup between No. 1 Garfield and No. 2 Eastside Catholic. So many times that, for the final tenth of a second, Bulldogs coach Brandon Roy said the officials told him they were just going to count in their heads.
“They said they didn’t trust it going down,” Roy said. “It was a lot. And the refs have a hard job. I tried to be understanding to that point. For every second they leave up there, we’ve got a chance to play.”
The final tenth of a second was enough for Bulldogs senior Tari Eason to tip in the game-winner off an inbound pass, beating Eastside 65-64 at Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion.
Eason’s teammates, coaches, classmates and fans rushed to the court in celebration, piling on top of the 6-foot-8 wing. The school reclaimed the title last won during Eason’s freshman season at the school.
“I figured if I played my game and trusted myself, everything would be fine,” said Eason, a Cincinnati commit. “Coach told me to lob it over the top. I went and got it and finished. This feels amazing.”
About five seconds before Eason’s shot, Eastside post JT Tuimoloau thought he nailed the winning shot for the Crusaders (19-3).
Eastside coach Brent Merritt called a timeout with 5.6 seconds left and his team down 63-61. When play resumed, the ball ended up in Tuimoloau’s hands and the five-star football recruit sent a pretty three-pointer through the net from the top of the arc and a defender in his face.
Most were expecting the final horn to sound and seal a 64-63 win for the Crusaders. Instead, those who looked saw 5.6 seconds still beaming in yellow on SPU’s clock.
After a long discussion with coaches and each other, officials opted to put 2.1 seconds on the clock only to have it glitch again, settling on .5 after another talk. Similar scenarios happened in the girls title game hours earlier, but Eastside Catholic was comfortably ahead and eventually won the championship.
“We’ve got to live with it,” Merritt said as Garfield celebrated around him. “We didn’t lose the state championship; we lost the Metro championship. We don’t have any excuses.”
Garfield (19-3) led by four points at halftime. With teammates Nolan Hickman and Shane Nowell well covered by the Bulldogs defense, Tuimoloau took over to help build a 48-45 lead for the Crusaders by the end of the third quarter.
Garfield freshman guard Jaylin Stewart picked up a loose ball and drained a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 63-61 lead. Then time went awry.
Eason led his team with 21 points. Tuimoloau had 22 points.
“Eastside is a helluva team,” Roy said. “We wanted to win the city championship. That was a big deal for us.”
Both teams will advance to play in the Class 3A SeaKing District tournament. Garfield will play the winner of Saturday’s Interlake vs. West Seattle game Tuesday. Eastside Catholic will play Tuesday against the winner of Saturday’s Ingraham vs. Seattle Prep game.