J.T. Tuimoloau scored 26 points to help the Crusaders stay unbeaten against O'Dea, which was playing without star sophomore Paolo Banchero, who sat out while recovering from concussion symptoms.
J.T. Tuimoloau is not just a football player. And, just about everyone in the Metro League boys basketball race is going to find out.
Tuimoloau poured in 26 points despite foul trouble and scored the first four points of the second overtime as second-ranked Eastside Catholic withstood sixth-ranked O’Dea 69-63 on Tuesday night in a thrilling, double-overtime Metro League showdown in front of a standing-room only crowd.
The Crusaders (13-0, 7-0 Metro) were in an all-out war to down the Irish (7-6, 5-3), who played without 6-foot-9 sophomore Paolo Banchero, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
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“We were still looking forward to this game, even if (Banchero) doesn’t play, we still have to put on our ‘A’ game,” Tuimoloau said. “We’ve got to play like he’s in there, you know go full speed. Even though I was in foul trouble, I knew my team needed me. They all rely on me.
“I came out, even though I had four fouls, and had to play smart.”
Tuimoloau picked up his fourth foul with 1:25 left in regulation and then the Crusaders lost Shane Nowell (15 points) to fouls with 1:05 showing in the first overtime. Tuimoloau still managed 10 points in the fourth quarter and two OTs.
Banchero sat out recovering from concussion symptoms, but the rest of the Irish, led by Noah Williams’ game-high 25 points, came to play. Williams forced overtime with a driving finger-roll layin with 1.6 seconds left in regulation, tying the score at 56-56.
Then, at the end of the first OT, Tuimoloau scored on a right-to-left reverse layin with 28 seconds showing to give the Crusaders a 60-58 lead, but Williams responded a runner in the lane with 13.3 left to knot the score at 60-60.
Tuimoloau scored on a bank shot in the lane 29 seconds in the second OT and then hit two free throws with 3:15 left for a 64-60 cushion for EC. Williams pulled O’Dea to 64-63 on a layin off a nice pass from Emonte Scott with 2:01 to go.
“Basketball helps with my stamina on the football field,” said Tuimoloau of playing the two sports. “Football helps me be tough in the paint. It’s just vice versa.”
Crusader guard Syon Blackmon drilled a 15-foot baseline jumper for a 66-63 edge after Williams flew by and collided with the base of the stands near the Eastside Catholic bench. Williams went to the bench for about a minute, then came back in but missed two free throws with 39.4 seconds left in the second OT with his team down 67-63. Christian Lakes capped the scoring with 14 seconds on a run out after a steal and pass from Griffin Barker to seal the win.
O’Dea has lost four games in a row – all games without Banchero – and that includes a 64-56 loss to Garfield on Friday in league play after a pair of losses in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in California.
“I told them in there (in the locker room), that if we’re looking for positives, that it was our fight in the second half,” O’Dea coach Jason Kerr said.
Banchero suffered his concussion on Dec. 28 against Mission Bay in the Torrey Pines tourney and has missed the next three full games.
The Crusaders played without starting point guard Nolan Hickman, a sophomore who is nursing a hip injury.
UW’s Jaylen Nowell was in attendance watching his younger brother, Shane, who plays for Eastside Catholic. Husky teammates Matisse Thybulle, an Eastside Catholic graduate, and Sam Timmins also watched the game.
O’Dea missed 11 of 15 free throws in the final quarter and two overtimes combined.