SAMMAMISH — The youngsters on the Eastside Catholic girls basketball team have signaled their arrival.
The Crusaders, with only freshman and sophomore on their roster, proved they will be a force the rest of the season and the foreseeable future.
Led by freshman point guard Malia Samuels, who rang up 19 points, including 12 in a breakaway third quarter, third-ranked Eastside Catholic boat raced top-ranked Garfield 73-49 on Friday night in a Metro League girls basketball game at Eastside Catholic.
“I’m so excited,” said Samuels, grinning ear to ear and dripping with sweat. “We’ve been waiting for this game our whole year. We’ve been looking forward to it and slowly, slowly it came and we got it done. I think this game says, ‘We’re the underdogs, but we can still get it done.’
“Our mentality was just pressure, pressure, pressure. My mentality was getting my teammates the ball and get the whole team involved.”
Garfield (12-5, 11-1 Metro) is normally the aggressor, but the Crusaders (16-1, 13-0) proved more assertive, especially in an epic third-quarter run. Eastside Catholic forced the Bulldogs into 10 turnovers in the third and opened the second half with a 22-4 surge.
The loss was Garfield’s first against an in-state opponent. The Crusaders’ full-time press gave the Bulldogs fits in the second half. Eastside Catholic, which was 0-18 two seasons ago, just kept pressing.
“(The fullcourt pressure) bothered them a lot,” said Samuels, who tallied 15 points after halftime. “We knew we had better athletes and that we needed to pressure them to get the win.”
Garfield coach Marvin Hall declined to comment after the game.
Samuels, who also had six assists and five steals, got help from fellow freshmen Mjracle Sheppard (16 points) and Imbie Jones (14 points) and sophomore Zahirah Walton (13 points).
Freshman Naveah Talbert led Garfield with 12 points and Desiree Lane and Kareyna Taylor added nine each. Senior All-American Dalayah Daniels, playing extended minutes for the first time after sitting out with an ankle injury since Dec. 19, scored three points in about 13 minutes.
“I think we passed that test with incredible strength,” said Sheppard, who had 12 of her 16 points in the first half. “We just came out playing our game and we knew didn’t have the elder players to be there, but we know our strengths and we took that to our advantage.”
EC coach Katie Farr was proud of the effort against a Garfield team seeking a big run at state this season after taking fifth at state last season and second in 2018.
“I think we came out in the second half, knowing we’re a young team, so it was kind of like we were up against the big bad wolves of Garfield and had to get over that,” said Farr. “With these girls, it’s not an arrogance, it’s a confidence. They step on the court and know they can compete with anybody. You look at Garfield, and they’ve been this Holy Grail of girls basketball and you have to respect that and the girls do.
“In the second half, we said, ‘We are in control of this game.’ These girls were hungry and they wanted it.”