After a string of blowouts, the Raiders had their hands full with the Bulldogs in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Hale stayed undefeated with a 69-65 win.
It was just the kind of game Nathan Hale needed.
A close battle in front of a — very — hostile crowd to push the undefeated Raiders was just what Nathan Hale coach Brandon Roy was looking for. And he knew he’d get it from his alma mater.
Coaching in his old gym for the first time, Roy watched as his Raiders held off Garfield 69-65 in a Metro League boys basketball game Friday night at Garfield High School in what could be a state-championship preview
“I tried to warn my guys, ‘They’ll be ready,’ ” Roy said. “They’re not going to come in here and roll over for us. We made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day we stepped up and got a really good win. … They clawed their way through this one.”
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It was top-ranked Nathan Hale’s second victory over the No. 2 Bulldogs this season. The Raiders won a nonconference matchup 87-64 on Dec. 29 in the semifinals of the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore. Garfield was without University of Washington signee Daejon Davis in the first contest as he was out with a hand injury.
Davis made his presence felt Friday night, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
But it was his future teammate at UW, Nathan Hale star Michael Porter Jr., who helped propel his team to victory. Porter finished with 34 points — 13 in the final quarter — and 14 rebounds in the game that was televised nationally on ESPNU.
“I always tell people if it’s close we’ve got a heck of a shot to win the game (with Porter),” Roy said. “ … He’s an unbelievable player, and he just continues to prove that night in and night out.”
There was a frantic pace at the start of the game as Nathan Hale jumped out to the early lead. Garfield closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run and took a 23-18 lead in the second quarter before the Raiders countered with a 9-0 run of their own to build a 34-31 advantage at halftime.
The Raiders were in control for most of the second half until the game’s final minutes. Garfield got to within four points with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining after six consecutive points from Jaylen Nowell, but Porter, who was named to the Jordan Brand Classic Game earlier in the day, put the game away from the free-throw line to clinch the victory.
Nathan Hale did not make its players available to the media after the game.
“I thought it was (a good game) for us,” Roy said. “I was on the bench thinking, ‘This atmosphere is what we need.’ You don’t want to get to a state-tournament game or a district-tournament game and the crowd gets you a little rattled and you’ve never seen those moments. … This was a real road game against a good team.”
Jontay Porter scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and junior Freddy Brown III added 12 points off the bench for Nathan Hale (17-0, 12-0 Metro).
Nowell led Garfield (15-3, 12-1) with 20 points, and J’Raan Brooks added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs.
“Any time you get a chance to compete you want to play against the best. They’re the best team in the country,” Garfield coach Ed Haskins said. “ … You’re never satisfied with a loss. But my kids battled and battled.
“We’re just going to try to keep on getting better. Hopefully, we get to play them a couple more times.”