Tramaine Isabell wandered outside his team’s celebration at center court, almost stumbling as he gazed in awe at the raucous crowd.
Then he turned and spotted Brandon Roy behind the basket, ran to the Garfield graduate and threw his arms around him over a rope at the end of the court.
Isabell, a Washington State recruit, accomplished what Roy, nor current Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten never did at Garfield with a 4A state championship Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.
He earned tournament MVP honors after his scintillating 34-point, seven-rebound performance in the Bulldogs’ 68-59 victory against previously undefeated Richland.
“This means a lot,” Isabell said. “I can’t … It’s unexplainable.”
Isabell, a transfer from Lakeside, had a chance to win the 3A state title last year when he went to the free throw line with 1.3 seconds left, but he missed the first on a one-and-one against Rainier Beach. Lakeside would lose in overtime.
“I can’t explain how much I wanted to come back and win a state championship,” Isabell said. “It made me work harder in the summer, and it ended up paying off.”
But Richland jumped out to a 14-4 lead to start the game, hoping to win its first state title since 1979 and finish its season at 26-0.
That’s when Isabell took over. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, and helped Garfield take a 17-16 lead into the second. He scored 22 points in the first half.
Richland’s Steven Beo went on a scoring streak of his own in the third quarter. The sophomore scored nine of his team-high 22 points in the period and gave Richland a 43-41 lead just before the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to do whatever it took for us to get a win,” Beo said.
But that was the last time the Bombers would lead. Two baskets from Federal Way transfer Brayon Blake and five straight points from Isabell gave Garfield a 52-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
Consecutive turnovers with less than a minute and a half to go hurt Richland when it trailed 60-58 in the final period. Isabell hit three free throws down the stretch and the Bulldogs ended the game on a 7-1 run.
It was Garfield’s first title since 1998, when Roy was an eighth grader. Wroten helped the Bulldogs place second in 2009.
“It feels good to see them win it, they deserve it,” Roy said. “I thought I would win a couple myself, but it’s good to see them get it here.”
Garfield coach Ed Haskins said he knew this was possible as soon as Isabell called him in September to notify him he was transferring from Lakeside.
“I don’t care what anybody says, I did not know he was coming to Garfield,” Haskins said. But when he called me and told me he was coming, I was like, ‘Wow, this might be something special.’
“I told him all year that, ‘Hey, man, listen – when it gets down to championship time, the ball is going to be in your hands. You are the best player in the state. You are going to make the plays.’”
He did. And it brought Garfield a state title.
Staff writer Kevin Manning contributed to this report