The Eastside Catholic Crusaders boys basketball team is on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in the Class 3A division.
The Crusaders, who have a varsity roster consisting of three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and three freshman, lost 56-48 to the No. 1 seeded Garfield Bulldogs in the Class 3A state semifinals on March 2 at the Tacoma Dome. Garfield guard Pierre Crockrell Jr. scored 10 points in the final 3:25 of regulation to put the game away. Eastside Catholic cut Garfield’s lead to three points with 2:17 left in regulation but couldn’t get any closer due to Crockrell’s clutch shooting from the perimeter.
“I just stayed the course and I never went outside of what I was doing. I just took the open shot. I didn’t want to lose that game,” Crockrell said. “This was a big game and I just wanted to help my team win.”
Crockrell knew Eastside Catholic would be a formidable opponent.
“We knew they were a good young team. They are going to be really good in the future. We knew they were going to come hard at us. It is a semifinal game and it’s not going to be easy,” he said.
Eastside Catholic head coach Brent Merritt said his team couldn’t overcome its mistakes against the Bulldogs.
“It is always tough to lose. We got a bright future but we wanted to win this one now and we felt like we had a good shot to do it. They (Garfield) played better than us. You can’t make those mistakes against Garfield whether its in the first half or the fourth quarter. It doesn’t matter. You can’t make them and beat that team,” Merritt said.
Despite the loss, Merritt was proud of the way his team responded in the second half of play.
“We felt like we weren’t aggressive enough in the first half. We also challenged Shane (Nowell) and he answered in the second half. He was a little dormat in the first half and he got aggressive and that helped us out,” Merritt said. “With these guys if they are not playing well as a group, if you challenge them they are going to come out and answer. I will let them know how I feel and they will change their whole attitude. I love that about my team.”
Eastside Catholic will face the Lincoln Abes in the Class 3A third/fifth place game at 11:15 a.m. on March 3 at the Tacoma Dome. Merritt believes his team will be ready for the challenge. Lincoln defeated Eastside Catholic 56-53 in the regional playoffs on Feb. 24.
“They’ll be hungry for it. They are mad and they are upset right now,” Merritt said following the loss to Garfield. “Everyone has told them they can’t beat Garfield and they were predicted to lose to Lincoln. They will be pumped up and ready to play. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Crusaders’ freshman post player Jaylahn Tuimoloau was looking forward to getting back on the court after the setback against Garfield.
“We played good. We just have little things we got to work on. The plan tomorrow is to come out and play with intensity. Tomorrow is a new day. We just got to play our game, play our ball and go on from there,” Tuimoloau said.