FIRST REPORT, 8:27 PM: That was a nailbiter for a few minutes – but the West Seattle High School boys pulled it out and just beat O’Dea on the Fighting Irish home court on First Hill, 59-55. Next up in the Metro League championships, they play Rainier Beach at 8:30 pm Wednesday at Seattle Pacific University. We’ll have photos and more about the game after we get back to HQ.
ADDED 11:56 PM: It was the thriller on First Hill. Though the Wildcats ended the first quarter up 10 points, and had a 12-point lead for a bit in the second quarter, much of the second half was a lot closer. West Seattle outfought the Fighting Irish, but not without some nailbiting moments. And a lot of cheering by the passionate fan base that crossed the bay for the game.
The lead changed hands for the first few minutes, until WSHS started to settle into the upper hand. They had lost to O’Dea by just two points in the regular season, and didn’t seem too mystified by their opponents’ game plan.
The Wildcat defense forced O’Dea to try lots of outside shots – generally without success. West Seattle had better luck getting inside, including a reverse shot by #2 Elijah Nnanabu – the night’s top scorer with 18 – early on. That really energized the crowd.
O’Dea’s cold-handed shooting was particularly in evidence in the second quarter. The Wildcats had ample rebounding opportunities, and #5 Abdullahi Mohamed excelled. He got the basket that widened West Seattle’s lead to 12 points in the second quarter.
O’Dea started chipping away at that lead for a while. WSHS kicked the defense up a notch, and when they got the ball back, kept powering through:
But the lead was down to five points at halftime, 28-23. Out of the gate in the second half, #23 Anthony Giomi – second-leading Wildcat scorer with 16 – hit the first basket.
They couldn’t pull away, and the Fighting Irish got too close for comfort – narrowing the gap to three points by 5:15 to go in the third quarter. West Seattle stepped up their game again, but O’Dea sensed an opening and tightened up the defense in the waning moments of the third quarter, getting within two in its final minute.
In the fourth quarter’s early going, O’Dea was suddenly just one point down, 42-41. A pivotal possession for WSHS at 5:34 led to a basket, and the crowd roared. A foul shot widened the lead to four points. But there was no pulling away, despite exciting moments like a steal that led to another Nnanabu bucket. With three minutes to go, the WSHS section in the bleachers was doing some footstomping. At 2:45, the lead was opened to six points, 50-44.
#24 Simon Harris added two points to that with a basket at 2:05. Victory was in view – but still not a sure thing, and two minutes can be forever in basketball. In fact, it almost was – an O’Dea three-pointer with :45 to go turned a five-point WSHS lead into two. But they just wouldn’t let O’Dea get any closer than that, and the final was 59-55.