Last year, when Garfield won the Class 4A boys basketball championship and Rainier Beach won the 3A title, fans were wishing that they could play each other.
One year later, the wish came true, with a reclassified Garfield team taking the 3A championship game over Rainier Beach, 66-51.
The Garfield win ended Rainier Beach’s steak of three state titles. The Vikings had also won their past four state championship games, having not lost a title bout since 2004.
Garfield dropping down to 3A and joining the high-octane Metro League gave Rainier Beach a new/old rival.
Never miss a local story.
“To come out and beat them, it’s a great feeling,” Garfield sophomore Jaylen Nowell said. “This was supposed to be their league. It’s Garfield’s league now.”
Nowell was named tournament MVP after his 23-point, 10-rebound performance in the final. He averaged 21 points per game in the tournament, but it was a defensive play — or maybe a stroke of luck — that turned the tide Saturday.
The score was tied at 49 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds to play when Nowell was defending Rainier Beach guard Shadeed Shabazz near midcourt.
“I faked at him, and I guess he got scared and dribbled off his foot,” Nowell said. “He lost it, I got the and-one, and it picked the momentum up for us to win the game.”
The three-point play started a 17-2 Garfield run through the end of the game, and the Bulldogs’ celebration began.
Junior forward Alphonso Anderson had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs. His height advantage in the post was a problem for Rainier Beach throughout the game.
“He’s the best post in the state, but he’s not a post,” said Garfield coach Ed Haskins, a Clover Park alumnus. “He’s actually a 3/4, but he has such good footwork and hands that he can just do what he does.”
A transfer from Tacoma’s Wilson High School, Anderson was thrilled to win the trophy.
“Holding that gold ball up, it brought chills to my body,” Anderson said.
Shabazz scored 22 points to lead Rainier Beach, but Vikings star Dejounte Murray was held to 15 points and 13 rebounds. The University of Washington recruit took just six shots in the second half.
In the eyes of Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea, the Vikings only had themselves to blame.
“We just didn’t do what we needed to do. We didn’t execute,” Bethea said. “We’ve won for so long, I think guys were just expecting things to happen. We didn’t block out and rebound. We didn’t get our hands on loose balls. We turned the ball over at inopportune times — unforced turnovers killed us.”
Now Bethea and Rainier Beach have to be concerned about the Bulldogs, a team that had a huge fan base including several current and former NBA stars in their alumni section Saturday.
“Garfield basketball has a lot of pride. It’s all about legacy,” Haskins said. “There are so many people —from the Brandon Roys and Tony Wrotens and everybody else that we don’t know their names up in the stands — we felt their support, and we played with the swag of that support.”