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Originally published March 4, 2014 at 7:20 PM | Page modified March 4, 2014 at 11:13 PM

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Eastside Catholic, O’Dea take aim at unbeaten Rainier Beach

Vikings 26-0 and ranked second nationally entering state 3A boys basketball tournament, but Crusaders, Irish buoyed after pushing Beach to the finish in recent games.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Rainier Beach is 26-0, ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and has an invitation to play for a national title if it wins its final three games. No wonder the Vikings are heavy favorites to win the 3A state championship this weekend.

That doesn’t mean the remaining seven teams are afraid to match up with them, though.

“If we take it all the way, I think we have a chance at them,” Eastside Catholic junior Matisse Thybulle said after leading the Crusaders past Timberline in the round of 16.

Eastside Catholic has played Rainier Beach three times — during the regular season, in the Metro League title game and the District 2 championship — and has yet to beat the Vikings. The Crusaders did give Rainier Beach its closest contest yet, though, leading in the final minutes of the league title game before eventually ending up on the wrong side of a 68-65 thriller.

Eastside Catholic is playing its best basketball right now, though, and has slowly been putting in plays as to not give anything away to advance scouting reports. The Crusaders are on the opposite side of the bracket as Rainier Beach and would face them if both reached the championship game.

The Crusaders aren’t the only Metro team that believes it has a legitimate shot at the state title. Similarly, O’Dea took Rainier Beach to the wire before eventually falling 64-57 in the district semifinals. What makes the Irish a dangerous team isn’t what they have been able to do to get to this point, but that they have been able to get to this point considering the facts.

“I think the seniors are starting to step up,” O’Dea coach Al Hairston said. “(But) I haven’t gotten all three to play well together at the same time.”

The three seniors — Jacob Lampkin, Jamie Orme and Tyler Kidd — shoulder a lot offensively on an otherwise young roster. The trio have vastly different skill sets, ones that ideally fit well together when the three are hitting on all cylinders.

Still, it will be difficult to topple Rainier Beach, something even nationallyranked teams have been unable to accomplish. But there is no time like the present, especially after the Vikings barely got by Mercer Island their last time on the court.

“There’s teams that are peaking right now and judging off tonight, hell, did we peak?” said Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea after narrowly beating the Islanders.

“That’s what I’ve got to figure out as a coach, and that’s what I’ve got to get back to the drawing board and figure out.”

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