Beach, which had lost to the Bulldogs twice this season, earns 66-57 victory.

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This time the Rainier Beach High School boys basketball team was determined not to cough this one up.

In the previous two meetings with Metro League rival, Garfield, the Vikings built big leads, but didn’t close the deal.

This time Rainier Beach built that big cushion but was able to keep the margin inflated down the stretch to score a 66-57 win over the second-ranked Bulldogs in Tuesday’s to qualify for regionals at the Class 3A SeaKing District quarterfinals at Bellevue College.

It simply came down to taking care of the ball and making better decisions for the Vikings (19-6) in scoring the third-time’s-a-charm triumph. Beach’s trio of N’Kiel Nelson (20 points), Kahlil Shabazz (19) and Kevin Porter Jr. (17) combined for 56 points.

“Coach (Mike Bethea) was getting (on us at halftime), making sure we don’t drop the lead,” said Shabazz, who scored seven points in the fourth quarter and hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final 36.2 seconds. “Because that’s exactly what we did the last two games (with Garfield). He made sure we didn’t do it a third time.”

Shabazz plays AAU on Seattle Rotary with teammate Kevin Porter Jr. and Garfield’s Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell. For now, Shabazz and Porter Jr. own bragging rights.

“It’s always competitive and we call each other and talk smack,” Shabazz said. “It’s bragging rights and we’re trying to get to state and that’s what is most important right now.”

Beach faces Seattle Prep on Thursday in the district semifinals at 4:45 p.m. at Bellevue College. Garfield drops in the consolation bracket and meets Bellevue on Friday at 3 p.m. at Bellevue College.

With this season’s introduction of RPI rankings by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), Beach had more at stake as No. 9 seed. Garfield came in as the No. 2 RPI team, and the top eight teams, once they qualify from its district tournament, earn a first-round game at state.

Beach and Garfield always come ready for each other.

“It’s always going to be a good one, because it’s the ‘Hood Classic,’ so it’s always going to be competitive and the fans are always going to be in the game every time,” Shabazz said. “Every time we played (this season), we’ve gone up on a big lead. This time we took control and didn’t let them come back.”

Beach was firing on all cylinders in transition in the first half, opening a 31-15 lead with 4:53 left in the second quarter on Kevin Porter Jr.’s fastbreak layin. Garfield pulled to 31-22, but the Vikings stretched it to 37-22 with six points in a row.

The Bulldogs got a three-point play from University of Washington commit Nowell with 4.6 seconds left to get to 38-31 at halftime. Nowell finished with nine points and Davis, another UW commit, had eight as Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar looked on.

Garfield got as close as 44-40 as Eddie Turner, who finished with 13 points, hit a 15-foot jumper from the right side with 3:31 to go in the third quarter. Beach used a 6-0 spurt to go up 63-50 with 1:03 left in the game.

“The last times we played them, we just didn’t take care of the basketball,” Bethea said. “We had a 16-point lead at halftime the first time and then got down 10 in the third quarter. We just did a better job of not giving them ball. That’s what it was.”

Other quarterfinal

Seattle Prep 69, Bellevue 54

Junior Kalu Stricklin scored 20 points as the Panthers (17-7) put the game out of reach in the second half and led by as many as 18 points.

The Panthers used a 17-4 surge late in third quarter to turn a six-point lead into a 17-point cushion. Prep sank 19 of 26 free throws to the Wolverines’ 4 of 5 from the line.

Girls quarterfinals

West Seattle 64, Garfield 63

Sophomore Jasmine Gayles sank a pair of free throws with 18.9 seconds remaining to help the Wildcats (17-7) preserve the winner-to-regional victory.

Tamia Mobley scored on a putback with 4.3 seconds left to cut the West Seattle lead to one, and the Bulldogs (16-7) stole the ensuing inbounds pass for one last chance to win. Mobley missed a three, and the Bulldogs rebounded.

Bellevue 56, Seattle Prep 47

Freshman guard Kara Choi helped the seventh-ranked Wolverines (21-2) perk up and pull away in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of her career-high 19 points in the second half.

Bellevue, the No. 4 RPI team in 3A girls, didn’t get its first lead until junior Annika Prins (11 points) drained a deep three-pointer for a 40-38 lead with 5:42 to play in the game.

The win pushed the Wolverines through to regionals and pits them against West Seattle in the district semifinals on Thursday at 3 p.m. at Bellevue College. Garfield sophomore Samaiyah Tolliver poured in 25 points on the strength of five three-pointers.