‘My eyes lit up.’ Paolo Banchero rises to the occasion, solidifies O’Dea as the state’s top team in win over Garfield: 3 observations

SEATTLE — O’Dea cleared a major hurdle in the Metro League gauntlet Tuesday night. 

Paolo Banchero put up 24 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three assists and John Christofilis hit four 3-pointers to lead the No. 1 Fighting Irish (9-2) past No. 3 Garfield (8-3), 76-56, at O’Dea High School.

Tari Eason posted a team-high 19 points and eight boards for the Bulldogs (8-3) and Kendall Munson added 11 points. 

Here are three observations:

BANCHERO HAD NO ISSUES WITH PERHAPS THE MOST IMPOSING FRONTCOURT IN THE STATE

Banchero, ESPN’s No. 4 recruit in the nation in the class of 2021, admitted he was surprised when he saw how Garfield approached guarding him. 

Pleasantly surprised. 

“I saw less” pressure than he has all season, Banchero said. “Not a lot of help. No doubles, you could tell they really thought they could stop me one-on-one. I took advantage of that.”

Eason (Cincinnati commit) and Munson (Pepperdine commit), both 6-8, took turns checking the 6-10 five-star prospect, who found various ways to score the ball. Eason blocked him once on a pull-up jumper, but for the most part, Banchero had his way.

“I haven’t seen that,” Banchero said. “My eyes lit up when I seen that. Every other game I’ve been getting gap help, doubles, triples, so seeing that, I really knew I could get my game on.”

IMPRESSIVE SHOOTING NIGHT FOR CHRISTOFILIS

Christofilis hit three 3s on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, sending the gym into a frenzy. 

As he got the ball on an ensuing possession and pulled up for his fourth, a make would have turned the place into a powder keg. He missed, but it was only one of two misses from 3-point range by the four-star junior shooting guard.

He went 4 of 6 from deep and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for O’Dea. 

“I think the team played really well and I really fed off that,” Christofilis said. “I’m thankful I hit a couple of shots. Guys stepped up big.”

VINTAGE HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL. APPOINTMENT VIEWING. MANY WERE EVEN LEFT OUT IN THE COLD

Two claps for Seattle high school basketball — ones loud enough to be heard in the raucous tinder box that is the O’Dea High School gymnasium on Tuesday night. 

O’Dea-Garfield had all the makings for a vintage Seattle high school basketball environment: 

  • Two of the state’s top teams — No. 1 and No. 3, per the most recent 3A coaches poll
  • Rosters littered with Division I talent
  • Two legends coaching each team (coaching legend Jason Kerr at O’Dea and former Washington standout and NBA all-star Brandon Roy at Garfield)
  • Numerous college coaches in the stands

Toss in the fact that O’Dea’s downtown Seattle gym is roughly the size of a middle school gym? A logistical nuisance played 

Both student sections and each bleacher was full for the freshman and JV games, and many watching from a standing room area near the door. O’Dea athletic director Monte Kohler said he closed the doors to the line of hopeful attendees at 6 p.m., an hour and a half before the game.

A word of wisdom: if planning on seeing O’Dea play at home this season, leave work early.

Andy Buhler is a reporter forScorebook Live Washington. Hear him weekly on the Scorebook Live Today podcast, follow him on Twitter@AndyBuhler; email at andy@scorebooklive.com.

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