In its first year in 3A, the Garfield basketball team is the state champion.
The Bulldogs beat Metro League foe and defending 3A champion, Rainier Beach, 64-51 on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. The title is No. 13 in school history and the second consecutive, last year’s obviously coming in the 4A classification.
The back of Garfield’s jerseys this season read “Legacy”. The last three days were an evidence as to why – former Bulldog basketball standouts Brandon Roy, Tony Wroten, and Will Conroy were all in attendance at multiple games in Tacoma. They were also among the first people to greet the team on the court after the championship game ended.
“We felt the support and honestly, we played with that swag and that support of the whole city,” Garfield head coach Ed Haskins said. “Garfield is the mecca of basketball, and it has been and it will be.”
Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell had an impressive three-game stretch for Garfield, wrapping it up with a 23-point, 10-rebound performance against Rainier Beach.
In addition to Nowell’s solid play, Garfield also exploited an interior mismatch by getting the ball to wing Alphonso Anderson. He finished the title game with 17 points and 14 rebounds. He was especially effective when Beach forward Vincenzo Reiser – the Vikings’ biggest post option at 6-foot-5 — got in foul trouble.
After the win, Haskins said Anderson is the “best post in the state”, even though that technically isn’t his position.
“He’s just got such good footwork and hands that he can do what he does. And he’s got size,” Haskins said.
Reiser wasn’t the only Viking to get in foul trouble – they had 10 team fouls before the end of the third quarter. Garfield made 20-of-29 free throw attempts with 16 of those attempts coming in the fourth quarter.
With 1:20 left, Rainier Beach guard Dejounte Murray fouled out with the Bulldogs leading 62-51.
The Vikings, on the other hand, finished just 4-for-10 from the free throw line. Two of those misses were by Shadeed Shabazz on one-and-one tries late in the fourth.
Many perceive the 3A classification in the state to be more challenging than 4A. And according to Nowell, that led to some people doubting whether or not Garfield could win a championship after moving down.
Rainier Beach beat Garfield in the Metro League championship, but Garfield took the regular season meeting.
“Nobody expected us to do this,” Nowell said. “Nobody even expected us to make it to this game, and just to come out and beat them, it’s a great feeling.”
Garfield is the only team in the state to beat Rainier Beach this season.