Before Brent Merritt had time to address his team in the locker room, Eastside Catholic players showered him in a water bath similar to Gatorade. The Crusaders, who were left without a regional victory over Mount Tahoe with a score of 68-51, secured a WIAA Hardwood Classic trip to the Tacoma Dome.
After participating in the tournament as the 14th seeded, Eastside Catholic is affiliated with the state.
“My kids were motivated,” Merritt told The News Tribune after winning Foss High School. “They didn’t feel they had to be 14th sown, so they wanted to come and play and prove we weren’t 14th sown.”
Eastside Catholic (19-9) won inside, made rebounds and forced to argue T-Bird punches. They fell behind early but came out ahead in the second quarter and never got it back. On Tuesday, they needed a game victory over Spanaway Lake to qualify for the regional competition on Friday. And on Friday, the Crusaders followed with a sad victory over 12th-placed Mount Tahoma (17-6, 12-0 3A PCL), which recently won an unbeaten season in the league and its first league title since 2004. .
“Definitely physical,” Merritt said. “We know they are playing tough. Their protection is really strong, and we just tried to keep (them) as much as possible. “
The Crusaders had to come into contact with the selected T-Bird team, so this is a way to stop Asjon Anderson from Mount Tahoma, who by Friday night was averaging more than 30 points per game. He scored 25 results for the team, but Damian Lafitte II was next out of 14. Senior guard Ryan Tran added nine.
Crusader forward Luis Grante Halliday led all the scorers from 26. He has a solid nose and can guard every position, Merritt said. Eastside Catholic leads with a score of 13 at the break, while Halliday’s nine points in the third quarter did not allow the T-Birds to turn away.
“We knew they had two top scorers,” Halliday said of Anderson and Tren of Mount Tahom, “so we knew we had to (boost) in defense. And it’s a shame … we just went inside, relentless. Not very tolerated (open) shots. Just punished, really. “
After the physical first quarter Mount Tahoma won by one point, although Eastside Catholic quickly turned the scenario around.
The big second quarter of the Crusaders, which resulted in a series of 9: 0, was won with rebounds in attack and second chances in the paint. They won the quarter 21-14. And on the offensive, all five Crusader starting clubs scored, although Anderson’s seven points were all that Mount Tahoma could collect.
“We have a team that has no serious experience in universities,” Merritt said. “Last year we didn’t depend on anyone, so it’s really nice to take this group to the Tacoma Dome.”
After two quarters, the T-Birds did not leave the field, but the first minutes of the second half did not help. Less than three minutes into the third quarter Mount Tahoma had already scored six team fouls and finished the period with eight.
During one possession Anderson looked at T-Birds coach Jason Townsend as the opposing Crusaders rushed.
“They can’t protect you,” Townsend told his star guard. “Go to them.”
Anderson drove to the basket, making fouls and making free throws. He was also fast; it didn’t take long for Mount Tahom’s top scorer to go the entire length after the court, and when the Crusaders turned their backs, Anderson was open, somewhere. Only in the third quarter did he hit five of six penalties. 13 of his 25 points throughout the competition were out of line.
His fearlessness in the paint took only T-Birds because Eastside Catholic increased their lead, trailing by 15 points in the second half from Halliday, who led the game. Tran doesn’t score again after scoring a pair of free throws for Mount Tahoma in the third. In the fourth starting from Mount Tahoma there were only 12.
The second consecutive season of Mount Tahoma ended in one game from a trip to Tacoma Doom. In 2020, Marysville-Getchell knocked out the T-Birds in the regional round, and in 2021 state tournaments were canceled due to a pandemic.
“In my final year, I just wanted to go to the Dome,” Halliday said. “This is my first time. Winning these two games means a lot, and there is still a long way to go. We will return to the gym.
“It’s great, man. I am very excited. We are trying to prove it this season. “
Goal: (EC) Louis Grante Halliday 26, Jacob Coffey 16, Bennett Oluzic 12; (MT) Asjon Anderson 25, Damian Lafitte II 14, Ryan Tran 9
This story was originally published February 25, 2022, 23:36.