Eastside Catholic set for grudge match with Rainier Beach after state semi final win over Wilson | Prep basketball news

The Crusaders are in the program's first state title game and will meet Rainier Beach for the fourth time with a 3A state title on the line.

At the start of the second half of their 3A state semi final game against Wilson, Eastside Catholic knew they had not been at their best on the offensive end.

But when the third quarter began, the Crusaders returned to the form that earned them a spot in the state’s final four, and coupled a suffocating defensive effort with an 8-0 third quarter run to beat the Rams 60-52 and take a spot in Saturday’s 3A state title game.

“Tons and tons of communication is the biggest thing for us on defense,” senior Nathan Christie said. “Our coaches do a great job of scouting to let us know who the shooters are and who likes to put it on the ground.”

The lowest point total of the year for Wilson (their previous low was 53) came at the worst possible time under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome, and EC took full advantage.

A put back dunk from Matisse Thybulle got things started in the decisive third frame, and when the Rams turned it over for a second straight time to begin the quarter, buckets from Zach Wallin and Nathan Christie pushed the lead to nine.

“He is the toughest dude mentally and physically I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around,” head coach Bill Liley said of his senior captain Nathan Christie. “He could coach this team without me.”

It was again the senior Nathan with a crucial play midway through the period, converting a three point play to extend his team’s lead back to nine after the Rams made a push.

” They are setting me up left and right, putting me in mismatches,” he said. “I’m just taking advantage of what is there.”

Nathan finished with 23 points to lead all scorers, and added five rebounds, two assists and a block. Worthy scored 13 to go with four rebounds and five assists, while Max Hudgins, Thybulle and Ian Christie combined for 22 more.

“We talk about the first four minutes of the half,” Liley said. “You can put a team on their heels and make sure they have to chase you and that is exactly what we did.”

The win keeps alive the hope for the program’s first ever 3A state title, which they can win Saturday in the Tacoma Dome against a familiar foe in Rainier Beach.

The state’s top-ranked team, Beach is also set to play in a national showcase tournament in New York when the season ends, and the Crusaders would love nothing more than to prove Class 3A is not a one-team show.

“These kids really mean it,” he said of his team’s desire to meet Beach for the title. “They want another shot.”

The Crusaders turned the ball over twice in their first three posessions to start the game, and did not make a field goal until almost three minutes had expired in the opening period.

But a pair of threes from Hudgins kept the Crusaders close, and a Worthy bucket with 2:50 left in the first gave them a 9-8 lead.

With Rams’ 6-foot-6 sophomore Alphonso Anderson Jr. looking to establish himself in the middle, the usual EC defensive platoon of the Christie brothers and fellow senior Wallin forced 14 total turnovers as the Crusaders led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter.

Both teams fell victim to turnovers and a frigid shooting performance in the second half, as the margin remained at three.

Defensive domination

Wilson finished with their lowest total of the year and a far cry from their season high of 95, which came in a win over Canyon Springs (Nev.). The Rams entered the game averaging nearly 70 points per game in their last four.

“It is tempo and grit,” Liley said. “We thought it would be that type of game and if it was, it would be ours to win.”

Wilson shot only 19 percent in the first half on 4-21 shooting, including 1-7 from beyond the three-point arc, while falling into what proved to be an insurmountable deficit.

They shot only 34 percent from the field for the game, and turned the ball over 14 times leading to 19 EC points.


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