By Karrington Kincaid, The Seattle Medium
An absolute thriller of a game took place Friday night between the Garfield Bulldogs and the O’Dea Fighting Irish in the Metro League Boys Basketball championship game. The defending Metro League champion Garfield Bulldogs looked to repeat where they left off last year against the top-seeded Fighting Irish of O’Dea. The noise was nearly deafening, as the crowd from both schools was cheering for their respective teams.
Both head coaches – Jason Kerr of O’Dea and Garfield’s Brandon Roy – were locked in and confident that their teams would get the job done despite the challenges that lay ahead of both.
The first quarter featured a very even-keeled matchup as multiple players from each side set the tone early. O’Dea guard BJ Shannon made some noise by hitting two three-point shots, while guard Brian Webster chipped in four points as the Fighting Irish scored 16 points in the quarter. But that didn’t stop Garfield guard Legend Smiley, who was recently named the Metro League’s Most Valuable Player, from showing out. Smiley poured in 10 first-quarter points, including a three-point shot and a free throw, while teammate Ajayi Simmons scored four points, as the Bulldogs held a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Going into the second quarter, all the momentum shifted to the Fighting Irish as they remained confident despite the efforts of Smiley in the first quarter. Shannon would connect on a three-point shot and a free throw that completely took away any momentum that Garfield had going for them. O’Dea Forward Breylon Webb scored four points, while Webster hit a three-point and a jump shot as O’Dea equaled their first-quarter output with 16 points.
The Fighting Irish also played a lot tighter on defense as they allowed Garfield very few opportunities to make plays and score. During the quarter, Garfield’s Ishe Kanhukamwe, Marcel Jones, Sammy Taylor, and Smiley would combine for a total of eight points, as the Bulldogs trailed 32-25.
During the third quarter, Smiley continued his scoring onslaught as he scored 9 of Garfield’s 13 third-quarter points. Meanwhile, O’Dea had a more balanced scoring attack as Shannon, and guards Quincy Brown and Levi Orbino would all hit three-point shots as the Fighting Irish increased their lead to 46-38 at the end of three quarters of play, with Shannon’s three-point shot connecting just before the buzzer sounded to end the quarter.
With the crowd still buzzing from Shannon’s three-point buzzer-beater, Garfield needed to dig deep and play with a ton of heart in the fourth quarter if they wanted to crawl their way back into the game, and that is exactly what they did. Very reminiscent of Smiley’s first-quarter dominance, Garfield guard/forward Jamari Harris would score 9 fourth-quarter points, while Smiley would connect on a three-pointer and a trio of free throws to lead a Bulldog fourth-quarter comeback.
Meanwhile, numerous players stepped up defensively for Garfield as they held the Fighting Irish to just 6 fourth-quarter points. This would seal the victory for the Garfield Bulldogs as they would rally from behind to claim the Metro League championship with a 56-52 win over O’Dea.
Smiley was full of raw emotions after the hard-fought win over the Fighting Irish.
“Man, the emotions are crazy. O’Dea beat us two times [this year], so you know on our mind we just wanted to beat them, beat them, beat them,” said Smiley after the game. “We were down till the fourth quarter and then we came back and made that run. It took all of us together, starting from the defense all the way to the offense. The emotions are high, but I feel good about going into the district [tournament] and into state, and I think we have a good chance of making another run,” said Smiley.
Both teams will advance to the district playoffs with Garfield going into the tournament as the Metro League’s number one seed, and O’Dea as the second seed.
Pictorial Highlights Of the 2024 Metro League Boys Championship Basketball Game