Throughout its 3A state quarterfinal game against University, there were tense moments for Eastside Catholic.But every time, the Crusaders found an answer.
EC beat University 53-39 behind a game high 24 points from junior Mandrell Worthy, who finished 10-22 from the floor and added five rebounds and three assists.
“It was exciting, I had to get used to it,” Worthy said of his first game in the Tacoma Dome, which was also the first for the program since 1999. “My teammates got me involved and I have to credit them for that.”
Eastside Catholic led by four after the first quarter as sophomore Matisse Thybulle scored seven of his 12 points, despite a litnay of missed layups and putbacks early on.
“There were some nerves, and we had to grind through it,” Eastside Catholic coach Bill Liley said. “Those guys are tough mentally and physically.”
Even with the missed opportunities inside, the Crusaders opened the game on an 8-0 run to take control.The Titans never led and were consistently stressed by the Crusaders’ collective length on defense.
“When you have guards like Matisse and Mandrell, that is what they do, they get up in people,” Liley said. “I’m proud of those guys on that end.”
That pressure led to 20 turnovers by the Titans, including 14 in the first half, and kept the team’s leading scorer on the year, Michael Isotalo, in check to the tune of just three points on 1-9 shooting for the game. His only field goal came without a field goal until less than a minute remained and with the outcome decided.
“They didn’t give Michael any looks,” University head coach Garrick Phillips said. “I give them a lot of credit for how they defended us.”
University cut the lead to two on an Andrew Schmerer basket to begin the second quarter, but watched as three-pointers from Thybulle and Worthy helped spurn a 12-5 run that pushed the lead to 29-18 at the half.
Worthy said the defensive pressure was an emphasis going in and something he knew his team could use to its advantage against the smaller Titans.
“We were really focused on defense,” Worthy said. “That’s what we keyed on in practice and our coaches prepared us well.”
Phillips said his team’s 20 turnovers and inability to deal with the Crusaders’ pressure played a prominent role in the outcome.
“The turnovers were the difference,” he said.
University’s 35-25 edge in rebounds and 13-3 lead in bench points were negated by the defensive takeaways from the Crusaders.The Titans got as close as five on a Robert Little three-pointer with less than two minutes left in the third.
But Nathan Christie answered with three of his seven points and a Mandrell Worthy bucket in the lane near the end of the frame extended the lead back to eight and held the Titans at bay.
“That is what he does,” Liley said of Worthy.
Eastside Catholic meets Wilson, a 60-57 winner over O’Dea, in Friday’s semi finals at 3:45 p.m. for a spot in the 3A state championship game, which could include a fourth matchup with Rainier Beach.
The Vikings won a first round game over Shadle Park and will face Bellevue in the other semi final Friday.