Marysville Pilchuck’s Aaron Kalab (right) drives to the hoop while being guarded by Garfield’s Tari Eason during a 3A boys Hardwood Classic quarterfinal on Thursday in Tacoma. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck’s Aaron Kalab (right) drives to the hoop while being guarded by Garfield’s Tari Eason during a 3A boys Hardwood Classic quarterfinal on Thursday in Tacoma. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck boys fall to Garfield, 73-52

Their championship hopes are gone, but the Tomahawks can still earn a state trophy

TACOMA — Garfield’s collection of elite talent presented a daunting challenge for the Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball team.

The Tomahawks did their best to claw back and hang around after a rough start, but the star-studded Bulldogs were simply too much.

Third-seeded Marysville Pilchuck fell to a Metro League power in the Class 3A Hardwood Classic quarterfinals for the second straight year, suffering a 74-53 loss to fourth-seeded Garfield on Thursday morning in the Tacoma Dome.

“We talk so much in our program just about perspective,” Tomahawks coach Bary Gould said. “… If you come back into the locker room and the other team scored more points than you, but you gave everything that you had, then it’s not a loss. It’s a loss on the scoreboard, but in life, that’s how you win.

“The reality is we ran into a team that just has more dogs than us,” he added. “We hold our heads high.”

The Bulldogs (23-4), who have won three state titles in the past six seasons, feature an imposing 6-foot-8 duo of NCAA Division I-bound senior forwards Tari Eason and Kendall Munson.

Eason, a University of Cincinnati commit, totaled a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 21 points in the second half, including four emphatic dunks and three 3-pointers.

Munson, a Pepperdine University signee, added 10 points and seven rebounds. Freshman phenom Jaylin Stewart also was a big factor for Garfield, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter.

“It’s really tough to stop them when they have two Division-I big men,” Gould said. “And they’re not back-to-the-basket post players. Tari also hit a bunch of threes. And then they have Stewart, who comes in and (hits) some threes.

“They’re a big team, an athletic team and they pester you full-court the entire game. So it’s definitely a matchup problem.”

Garfield raced to an early 15-2 lead, frustrating Marysville Pilchuck with its long, athletic defense.

But the Tomahawks (22-4) didn’t fold. Marysville Pilchuck opened the second quarter with 10 straight points, cutting the deficit to 20-17 near the midway mark of the period.

“We were hoping that we wouldn’t have that kind of shell-shocked approach (to start the game) and that we would just go out and play free and have fun,” Gould said. “But it’s a daunting task when there’s athletes at that caliber that you’re going up against.

“And I think we did show a ton of resiliency. I think that (Garfield) thought they were just gonna bury us right then and there, and we did show some resiliency to be able to come back and make it a three-point game.”

But after that, it was all Garfield.

Stewart drained consecutive 3-pointers to help push the lead back to double digits, and the Bulldogs took a 34-23 advantage into halftime. Garfield then scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and led 58-31 early in the fourth.

Marysville Pilchuck finished just 19-of-60 (31.7%) from the field, including 7-of-32 (21.9%) from beyond the 3-point line.

Senior forward Aaron Kalab, who nearly posted a double-double in the first half, led the Tomahawks with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Ethan Jackson added 11 points for Marysville Pilchuck.

“He’s just fearless,” Gould said of Kalab. “And that’s how we were trying to get everybody to play today. He definitely bought in, and he just plays without fear.”

Garfield advanced to Friday’s state semifinals. The Bulldogs face top-seeded Eastside Catholic in a Metro League showdown for a spot in Saturday’s state title game.

Marysville Pilchuck dropped to the consolation bracket and faces second-seeded Wilson at 9 a.m. Friday. With a win, the Tomahawks would clinch their second consecutive state trophy.

It’s a bit of deja vu for Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the Tomahawks fell to eventual 3A state champion and Metro League power O’Dea in the state quarterfinals before rebounding for a program-best fourth-place state finish.

“We talked in the locker room that we were in this exact position last year,” Gould said. “… We can hang our heads for a second for this (loss), but we’re in a spot that we want to be in, because we’re in a position to take home hardware. And that was our goal since November.”

“We are going to continue to (give all-out effort), and hopefully we get a state trophy to bring home,” Kalab added. “It would mean a lot to us.”

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