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BELLEVUE, Wash. — This night clearly wasn’t going to be about the Garfield High School boys basketball team’s high-octane offense, or about University of Washington commit Koren Johnson or explosive junior Jaylin Stewart getting loose.

Garfield’s Sea-King district championship showdown with O’Dea came down to what coach JayVon Nickens, a former Bulldog, himself, said is a time-honored program tradition.

“Defense, defense, defense,” he said. “That’s Garfield.”

Actually, it was O’Dea’s stellar defensive effort that helped the Fighting Irish push undefeated, top-ranked Garfield to overtime, but Johnson’s late-game slam sealed the Bulldogs’ 57-49 victory at Bellevue College to secure the district title hardware.

HIGHLIGHTS: No. 1 Garfield holds off O'Dea in OT for district title

The last meeting between these Metro League stalwarts ended in Garfield running away with a 98-61 victory.

So consider the state on notice now, about this hitting-their-stride Fighting Irish squad.

“We’re fighters,” said senior guard Owen Moriarty, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We’re right there with them. Last time it was a 30-point game and now we’re taking them to overtime. You can’t count us out.”

Here are three takeaways:


O’Dea’s Mason Williams drilled a corner 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and send the Irish crowd into a frenzy.

But it took some final-minute Garfield blunders to get there.

First – there was a technical foul called on Stewart after O’Dea had fouled him in the final minute. That gave Williams two free throws and O’Dea the ball as it cut the lead to 44-41.

Then Raphiel Justice pulled up in the paint with less than 15 seconds left when Garfield held a 46-43 lead and O’Dea needed to foul.

The shot missed and O’Dea’s Takeo Staten Sylvester raced up the floor and kicked out to Williams for the tying 3-pointer.

Momentum O’Dea.

Not that Garfield cared.

“I told them it’s basketball,” Nickens said. “Things happen. So what. Get over it. We had five more minutes to show them we’re still the best team in Metro.

“And I told them if you don’t want to lose tonight, run these last five minutes like we run at practice. We work on those situations in practice and we executed.”


Sherrell Mccullum Jr., who scored a team-high 15 points, got an offensive rebound and putback in the overtime period to push Garfield’s lead to 53-49 before Johnson, who scored seven of his 13 points in overtime, got a transition bucket off a turnover with 50 seconds left and then a fastbreak slam off another O’Dea turnover to seal it.

“We played through adversity,” Mccullum said. “Any type of environment, we can play through it. We can run up tempo, we can slow it down – we can play any style.”

Mccullum’s toughness on the glass and touch around the basket was arguably the difference in the game for Garfield.

“We can’t let teams get boards,” Mccullum said. “I had to do my part to close the game out.”


Owen Moriarty helped O’Dea (20-6) jump to a 25-19 halftime lead, scoring 11 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.

His play has been critical in what had been a six-game win streak for the Irish after losing three of five games in a stretch from the end of January into February. He said he’s taken a greater leadership role upon himself with the team adjusting after graduating Paolo Banchero, the Duke University star who could be the top 2022 NBA Draft pick this spring.

But with this backcourt of Moriarty and Williams hitting their stride at the right time, O’Dea could be a Darkhorse behind coach Jason Kerr entering the Tacoma Dome.

“We have a lot of inexperience as far as varsity minutes,” Moriarity said. “But we’re just coming together as a group – the coaches, too. We had a little sit down in the middle of the season because we had a little rough patch. But getting all of us on the same page has really helped.

“And I’ve taken on my role a lot better as the season has gone on as a senior leader. I’ve been trying to play with a chip on my back to show these guys the right way to play and show them how to win.”

---TJ Cotterill; @TJCotterill.