Garfield’s Jaylen Nowell battled for, and secured, a loose ball and made a layup as time expired to give the Bulldogs a 44-43 win over West Seattle in the 3A state semifinals on Friday.
The battle for the ball, and subsequent made basket, sums up what Garfield head coach Ed Haskins thinks about his team, and Nowell.
“My team has heart,” Haskins said. “My team wants to win, and my team wasn’t going to give up. …If they were my blood kids, I couldn’t be any more proud.”
The fourth-ranked Wildcats led by as many as eight in the fourth quarter, but Garfield fought back to take a 40-39 lead. After trading baskets for the next three possessions, West Seattle senior guard Nate Pryor gave his team a 43-42 lead by converting a runner with 10 seconds left.
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Garfield didn’t call timeout, instead they inbounded the ball and raced up the court. Nowell got the ball at half-court and drove the lane, missing with four seconds left. There was a battle for the loose ball, which he eventually secured and quickly shot the contested layup which appeared to leave his hand just as time expired.
“When they hit it back to me I was like, ‘I’ve got a second chance, I have to do it,’” Nowell said. “I was not going to miss it no matter what.”
It was a heartbreaking way for the Wildcats to lose. Not only did they have a eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but they controlled the tempo throughout the game.
“I’m pretty numb right now,” West Seattle head coach Keffrey Fazio said. “A lot of kids in that locker room are pretty hurt. I think they felt like they played hard enough to win the game, good enough to win the game. We just came up a little short.”
Pryor finished with a game-high 19 points. Haskins had high praise for the senior point guard after the game.
“(The Wildcats) have the best point guard in the state, bar none,” Haskins said. “I don’t care what anybody says. He helps them play at their own pace and tempo.”
The Bulldogs will play Nathan Hale, the state and the nation’s No. 1-ranked team at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in the championship. The two teams have played three times already this season, with all three meetings going to the Raiders.
“It’s about the state championship,” Haskins said. “We’re playing Hale, but it’s about the state championship. Now in my ninth year being a part of the tradition and legacy of Garfield basketball, it’s my job to do everything that I can to get Garfield back to this place. In my nine years, this is my fourth time getting to the state championship game, and I’m proud of that because that’s part of the legacy and tradition at Garfield.”
West Seattle: Nate Pryor 19, Tyler Lenzie 7, Abdullahi Mohamed 6, Yusuf Mohamed 5, Anthony Giomi 6.
Garfield: Jamon Kemp 2, Daejon Davis 11, Jaylen Nowell 14, Curtis Walker 4, J’Raan Brooks 13.