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Originally published February 7, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified February 8, 2012 at 8:20 PM

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O'Dea topples No. 1 Rainier Beach, 56-55 | Boys Basketball

The Irish squandered a 17-point, third-quarter lead, but held on for their second upset victory in three games to reach the Metro League championship game.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Some teams prefer the easy way. Others tend to make things a little more difficult.

For O'Dea, few things have come easy. Early in the boys basketball season, slow starts hampered the Irish. And Tuesday night a 17-point, third-quarter lead against the state's top-ranked team disappeared quickly.

But the hard lessons coach Al Hairston's team has learned paid off in the end. The Irish held on. Rainier Beach missed a three at the buzzer and O'Dea pulled off the upset, beating the Vikings 56-55 at Beach in the semifinals of the Metro League tournament.

"Some teams do it the easy way," Hairston said. "Some do it the hard way. We have to do it the hard way. That's this team, the hard way."

O'Dea (16-6), which pulled off its second upset win in three games, will play Franklin for the league title at 6 p.m. Friday at Brougham Pavilion. The Vikings (19-2) host No. 4 Seattle Prep at 7 p.m. Thursday.

"This is a good win, not only against a good, quality team in their gym, but it puts you in good position going from Metro League to districts and that whole thing," Hairston said.

After Sekou Wiggs scored five straight points to put the Irish up by 17 with 3:48 left in the third quarter, the Vikings called a timeout. They regrouped and Naim Ladd caught fire. The sophomore guard scored eight of his 13 points in the quarter, teaming with Marquis Davis to spark a rally.

Rainier Beach trailed by two after three quarters and even took a brief lead with about three minutes to play. But O'Dea senior Dana Abe scored four of his game-high 19 points down the stretch to help the Irish hold on.

"Our team, coming together throughout the whole game, it's really nice to see," Abe said.

Abe helped O'Dea jump out to an early lead, scoring seven straight points for his team in the first quarter. The Irish built a 10-point lead by halftime because they controlled the tempo and allowed only two Rainier Beach field goals in the second quarter.

"The difference is just how we came out," said Wiggs, who scored 16 points. "We've got all the confidence in the world that we can beat anyone."

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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