Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Washington Prep Athletics Network                                Eastside Catholic Crusaders freshman Jaylahn Tuimoloau, right, pulls down a rebound in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Feb. 28 at the Tacoma Dome.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Washington Prep Athletics Network Eastside Catholic Crusaders freshman Jaylahn Tuimoloau, right, pulls down a rebound in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Feb. 28 at the Tacoma Dome.

Crusaders keep their season alive with signature victory

A sterling effort on the defensive end of the floor propelled the Eastside Catholic Crusaders boys basketball to a victory against the Stanwood Spartans in the first round of the Class 3A boys basketball state tournament.

Eastside Catholic surrendered just nine field goals en route to a convincing 63-37 win against Stanwood in a loser-out playoff game on Feb. 28 at the Tacoma Dome. The Crusaders, who improved their overall record to 22-6 with the triumph, will face Kelso in the Class 3A quarterfinals at 9 a.m. on March 1 at the Tacoma Dome.

Eastside Catholic’s full-court pressure defense wreaked havoc on Stanwood’s offense. The Spartans finished the game with a paltry 23.1 percent shooting percentage. Eastside Catholic head coach Brent Merritt was proud of his team’s showing against a poised Stanwood squad.

“We knew what we were facing. I know that coaching staff pretty well. They execute their butts off,” Merritt said of Stanwood. “We were focused on being poised, staying down and staying down in our stances. The boys did a good job of adhering to what we practiced this week.”

Eastside Catholic senior Brock Mackenzie finished with a team-high 18 points in the win. Crusaders’ freshman forward Jaylahn Tuimoloau added 12 points as well. Mackenzie credited the Crusaders coaching staff for coming up with a formidable game-plan for the Spartans.

“The coaches told us what the other team does (before the game). We just went out and executed. We made some big stops and everyone did their job. I’m proud of my guys,” Mackenzie said.

The one area Merritt said has to improve was in the turnover department. Eastside Catholic had an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers against Stanwood.

“I was pulling my hair out,” Merritt said. “We got to get better in order to beat Kelso tomorrow and we know that. We will shore it up a little bit. Some of that was nerves but we got to be better.”

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