Long lines of people waiting to get into an already packed gym filled with college scouts are expected for Metro League boys basketball games. Especially one like Tuesday at O’Dea where the school’s – and one of the nation’s – top recruiting prospect in Paolo Banchero matched up against Garfield’s Tari Eason.
But it was the role players who slid into the spotlight to ensure the Fighting Irish’s 76-56 win.
“This is not a one-man show at all,” said Banchero, a 6-foot-10 post who’s regarded by multiple sites as the third-best player in the country for the Class of 2021. “This is 10, 11 guys playing together.”
O’Dea effortlessly built a 14-2 lead in the opening quarter, prompting Garfield coach Brandon Roy to call the game’s first timeout with 4:16 on the clock. It wasn’t until the second half, however, that the Bulldogs were able to string together some solid scoring plays with better defense that slowed the Irish.
Down 43-32 at halftime, the Bulldogs opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to make the deficit 43-39. Eason, a Cincinnati commit, nailed a three-pointer and had an assist during the spurt.
O’Dea coach Jason Kerr called time out, and Banchero’s support crew emerged.
Irish sophomore Takeo Staten-Sylvester delivered a pretty pass to junior Max Debiec for a layin and Banchero found Debiec in the paint for a basket to swing the momentum back to O’Dea.
Banchero’s powerful dunk with 1:47 left in the third quarter restored the lead to double digits (53-43). But the Irish weren’t done. O’Dea junior John Christofilis opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer while teammates Dezjay Perkins and Jaylon Ellis had assists to Jermaine Davis to build the lead to 74-49 with 2:21 left in the game.
A youthful Garfield squad, fourth in The Seattle Times’ Class 3A rankings, didn’t have an answer for top-ranked O’Dea’s cohesive lineup.
“The energy was great on the bench,” said Christofilis, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds as a starter. “The students did a great job getting us rowdy, and we feed off that.”
The schools entered Tuesday’s matchup suffering only nonleague losses. O’Dea traveled to Florida during the holiday break to play in the City of Palms Classic, where the Irish didn’t place, while Garfield placed seventh in the ‘Iolani Classic in Hawaii last month.
Banchero, who finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, said distancing his team from the road losses was a motivator in Tuesday’s game. He also had a personal goal in getting his first win against Garfield in his high-school career.
The Bulldogs had a seven-game win streak last season that included defeating O’Dea 64-56. But O’Dea was without Banchero (concussion) in that game and Garfield was without Eason, who transferred back to the school after playing for Federal Way as a junior.
Eason, a 6-8 wing, finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while teammate Kendall Munson, a Pepperdine commit, had 11 points.
O’Dea (8-2, 7-0 Metro League) is the defending Class 3A state champion, its first basketball title since 2007. Garfield (9-3,7-1) won the Class 3A title in 2018. With the Bulldogs’ star-studded roster disbanding and Roy taking a year-long sabbatical, Garfield missed the postseason for the first time since 2010.
The teams expect to see each other again for either a Metro League title or at state.
“This means nothing right now,” Davis said. “I want another ring.”