TACOMA — Outside of nationally-ranked Mater Dei, there was one team all year that seemed to have Eastside Catholic’s number.
And that team, the Garfield Bulldogs, let it be known on Friday afternoon — loud and clear.
Koren Johnson had 22 points, Tari Eason had 16 points and Kendall Munson added 15 as Garfield beat Eastside Catholic, 74-46, in the 3A state semifinals on Friday night to land in its second championship game in three years, marking Garfield’s third win over the top-ranked Crusaders this season.
But this one, a 28-point throttling in the Tacoma Dome, sent the loudest message.
“We just knew we were the better team,” Eason said. “As long as we played hard, played smart, played together, we could get it done.”
Said Crusaders senior Syon Blackmon: “They were just a better team today.”
WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Statistically, Garfield dominated just about every category. The Garfield shot a blistering 61.7 percent from the field in the first half behind strong performances from Koren Johnson and Tari Eason, and the Bulldogs held Eastside to one of, if not, its worst shooting performance of the season (28.8 percent).
ONE BIG MOMENT
4-seed Garfield went into the locker room at halftime up 13. Eastside Catholic counted a seven possession game. They felt like the game was in reach. Then Garfield scored seven straight to open the third quarter, capped by a 3 by freshman Jaylin Stewart. Once the Bulldogs were up 20, they didn’t let up.
Syon Blackmon, Eastside Catholic senior guard
“That’s not the way we wanted to go out. Not going to hang our heads, though, we’ve got one more game tomorrow, that’s what we’ve been doing all year. … my guys are going to come back prepared for next year.The fact that everyone is in the locker room disappointed right now shows we’re better than what we showed today and we can do better than what we did today.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Tari Eason, Garfield
The 6-foot-9 Cincinnati commit scored 16 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and hit two 3s. The senior began his high school career at Garfield and won a title there in 2018, and after a transferring to Federal Way for his junior season, he came back for his senior year. The state coaches association 3A player of the year showed why on Friday.
“Hopefully try to repeat (2018),” Eason said. “This is just special trying to come back and win for Garfield.”
Koren Johnson, Garfield
Johnson has had some of his best performances against Eastside Catholic. He scored 34 points in the teams’ regular season matchup, a 10-point win. But his 13 first half points helped the Bulldogs assert itself and grow an early lead. The sophomore guard finished with 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting, including two first half 3s.
Nolan Hickman, Eastside Catholic
Hickman was the Crusaders’ offensive spark at times in a game where the team was looking for one. He scored a team-high 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting.
Garfield takes on the winner of Rainier Beach/O’Dea in the 3A state championship