The Crusaders finished fifth last year, and has no shortage of confidence after beating the Wildcats 48-41.
West Seattle senior Bille Sheikh kept things interesting with his three-pointers.
The pint-size guard hit two late against top-seeded Eastside Catholic to twice cut the deficit to single digits. But the Crusaders were too tough to overcome, winning the Class 3A boys regional-round game 48-41 at Issaquah High on Saturday.
Eastside earned a bye into the state tournament quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome next week. It will play the winner of the game between No. 7 seed Prairie and No. 10 Ingraham on Wednesday.
West Seattle plays ninth-seeded Capital in a loser-out game at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. The Wildcats (17-8) are returning to state after a one-year absence. It placed third in 2017.
“Nolan Hickman and J.T. (Tuimoloau) definitely helped up down the stretch,” said Eastside Catholic sophomore Shane Nowell of his teammates’ work to retain the lead.
Sheikh’s trio with 4:02 left made the score 44-37 after trailing by 11 points at the break.
Tuimoloau came up with several key blocks and rebounds while Isaac Ticeson and Hickman handled the offense late to stave off any West Seattle comeback. Hickman’s layup with 36 seconds left made the score 48-39.
Nowell led his team with 16 points while Tuimoloau added 11 and Hickman finished with nine. West Seattle was led by 16 points from senior forward Abdul Mohamed and 11 points from senior guard Nuh’Kosi Roberson.
Eastside Catholic (22-2) placed fifth at state last season, starting three freshmen. A year older, the team is confident going in as a favorite and disrupting the popular belief that the title is Rainier Beach’s to lose. The Vikings are the defending state runners-up.
“Our preparation is different this year, and I feel we have a really good team,” Nowell said. “We have a good opportunity to play for a championship. It’s what we’ve been working hard for at practice all year.”