TACOMA — Sparked by RaeQuan Battle and several highlight-reel slams from the University of Washington-bound star, the Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball team made a spirited second-half rally against a talent-laden opponent.
However, it wasn’t enough to offset a rough first half under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome.
The fourth-seeded Tomahawks whittled a 21-point second-half deficit to seven points, but their comeback bid fell short in a 63-53 loss to 11th-seeded O’Dea in a Class 3A Hardwood Classic quarterfinal Thursday afternoon.
“I am super proud of my boys,” Marysville Pilchuck coach Bary Gould said. “I think that most everyone had written us off even before we tipped it off. And then (when O’Dea) extended it in the third quarter, it kind of looked like it was just going to be one of those games that ends up widening, widening, widening.
“But the Tomahawks didn’t quit. … They kept battling, they kept fighting, they kept making things happen. And so I’m really, really proud of that effort.”
Making just its second Hardwood Classic appearance in the past 25 years, Marysville Pilchuck (20-4) struggled to score in the first half against the size and athleticism of O’Dea. At the half, the Tomahawks had totaled just 17 points and committed 11 turnovers.
“(There was) some settling into the environment — the jitters and all that kind of stuff that ends up happening,” Gould said of his team’s first-half struggles.
Marysville Pilchuck was ice-cold from 3-point range all afternoon, finishing just 1 of 16 from beyond the arc inside the cavernous Tacoma Dome.
“It’s a unique environment to shoot in,” Gould said. “And give credit to O’Dea for their pressure and not giving us a lot of uncontested looks.”
O’Dea (18-8) pulled away in the third quarter, stretching its lead to 50-29 near the end of the period.
But just when a rout seemed in store, the Battle-led Tomahawks charged back with a 19-5 run, highlighted by several sensational plays from Marysville Pilchuck’s ultra-talented 6-foot-5 senior.
On a fastbreak in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Battle threw down an alley-oop pass from Luke Dobler for a two-handed slam.
Battle added another highlight-reel dunk just moments later, following his own missed jumper with a two-handed putback jam to cut the deficit to 52-39 with seven minutes to play.
“He is unreal,” Gould said. “I mean, I’ve been watching all the games yesterday and a bunch of the games today, (and) you don’t see stuff like that — even on this level, even on this stage. … I think that speaks volumes for how special he really is.”
Later in the period, Battle blocked a shot to kickstart a fastbreak, which resulted in a three-point play from Aaron Kalab that made it 55-48 with 3:29 remaining.
But after Marysville Pilchuck was hit with both a personal foul and a technical foul, O’Dea sank three of four free throws to push its lead back to double digits and stymie the Tomahawks’ comeback.
Battle finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Tomahawks, who fell to the consolation bracket with the loss. Marysville Pilchuck will face 10th-seeded Ingraham at 12:15 p.m. Friday for a spot in Saturday’s trophy round.
“We’re going to try to get a trophy back to Marysville,” Gould said.
Paolo Banchero, a 6-foot-9 forward who’s ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 5 sophomore recruit, led O’Dea with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Fighting Irish advanced to face top-seeded Eastside Catholic in Friday’s semifinals.