SAMMAMISH — Koren Johnson isn’t a big talker and sometimes he’s questioned his confidence.
But the 6-foot-2 sophomore guard announced his emergence in a huge way Friday night, pouring in a career-high 34 points and drilling seven three-pointers as third-ranked Garfield poured it on late in a 83-73 upset of top-ranked Eastside Catholic in a Metro League boys basketball clash at Eastside Catholic.
The win took some of the sting out of a 76-56 blowout loss to Metro power O’Dea on Jan. 7, the Bulldogs’ only in-state loss, and could be a building block for a postseason run.
“I thought we had to win that game, because we lost to O’Dea and (Eastside Catholic) beat O’Dea,” Johnson said. “We had to get our game back to be honest. I just wanted to keep going, that’s the only thought when I’m shooting like that.
“With this win, hopefully we can get momentum for the rest of the season, state, Metro, districts and all that.”
Johnson’s growth physically, he grew three inches in the offseason, has led to growth on the court. He drained five of his three-pointers in the second half, including three big ones in the third quarter, as the Bulldogs (15-3, 13-1 Metro) hiked their lead to 20 points early in the fourth quarter.
“(Growing) has helped my game with easier buckets, layups and defense,” Johnson said. “Last year was when I really started shooting the ball. I feel like (the success) is because of my mentality and hard work.”
Eastside Catholic (16-2, 13-1) played without junior guard Shane Nowell, who suffered a concussion on Tuesday in a 61-51 win over Ballard. The Crusaders got Nolan Hickman back in the lineup for the first time since he suffered an ankle sprain on Jan. 20 in the big win over O’Dea.
“We’ve been kind of coasting and on cruise control since that win over O’Dea,” EC coach Brent Merritt said. “This has been brewing for us since we played O’Dea. We didn’t play our best game against O’Dea, but we played hard. We’ve kind of felt like we were better than teams, so we didn’t play hard.
“We have some work to do. We’ve got to get everybody back healthy to get ready for the state-championship run. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to start in practice for us.”
Garfield stretched a 43-35 halftime lead to 78-58 with 4:13 to play on Johnson’s seventh and final dagger three-pointer.
“Koren’s played like that for halves, and I’ve to get on him about finishing games,” Garfield coach Brandon Roy said. “This is the best I’ve seen him play. I won’t say I’m surprised. He has the potential to really shoot the ball when he’s confident.”
Tari Eason, Garfield’s talented 6-foot-8 senior, scored 16 points despite foul trouble and Jaylin Stewart added 11 points and Kendall Munson 10.
J.T. Tuimoloau led the Crusaders with 20 points and Hickman and Syon Blackmon chipped in 18 points apiece.