BY MATT BAIDE
BELLEVUE – Eastside Catholic trailed O’Dea for much of the 3A SeaKing district title game at Bellevue College on Saturday, but the Crusaders were resilient and earned a 79-71 win.
Nolan Hickman led Eastside Catholic with 26 points. Syon Blackmon added 19 points and JT Tuimoloau recorded 14 points. Paolo Banchero tallied 24 points to lead O’Dea and John Christofilis recorded 21 points.
HICKMAN CLUTCH DOWN THE STRETCH FOR CRUSADERS
Hickman played a big role in the fourth quarter, knocking down a key 3-pointer and a layup to put the Crusaders up five with less than two minutes to go and made five free throws late to keep the Fighting Irish at a distance for the remainder of the game.
Hickman sealed the victory with a late layup as time expired to put the icing on the championship cake.
O’DEA COULDN’T KEEP IT TOGETHER LATE
O’Dea was leading for most of the game, but the big turning point was midway through the fourth quarter when head coach Jason Kerr was given a technical foul. Shane Nowell knocked down two free throws to tie the game and Tuimoloau put the Crusaders up for good with a basket after the foul shots.
The Fighting Irish were not happy with the officiating throughout the game, and that may have cost them the district title.
ROUND 4 COMING SOON?
Both teams have a top eight spot in the WIAA RPI rankings and have secured their berth in the Tacoma Dome. Eastside Catholic is No. 2 and O’Dea is sitting at No. 7 in the rankings, which means the two teams would play again next Friday or Saturday with a spot in the state quarterfinals on the line.
Wilson won the district title as well on Saturday against Evergreen in Puyallup and has locked up the No. 1 ranking. O’Dea and Eastside Catholic could easily be two teams that could meet up two more times before a champion is crowned in early March.