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Originally published March 7, 2014 at 8:50 PM | Page modified March 8, 2014 at 1:55 AM

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Eastside Catholic beats Wilson, 60-52, in 3A semifinals | Boys basketball

Eastside Catholic reaches state final for the first time in school history and will face Rainier Beach.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA — Three months ago, Eastside Catholic practiced at the University of Puget Sound and then made the short trip to the Tacoma Dome to watch its football team play in the state-championship game.

The Crusaders decided they were going to be back.

Fast forward to Friday After practicing at UPS earlier in the week, Eastside Catholic made good on the promise it made to itself in December.

No. 3 Eastside Catholic held off Wilson for a 60-52 win, punching its first-ever ticket to the state-championship game. The Crusaders will face Rainier Beach in the title game in what will be the Metro League foes’ fourth matchup of the season.

“In my mind when I set that up, even back then when we had our team day ... all the while talking about we’re going to get our chance, too,” Eastside Catholic coach Bill Liley said. “Now these guys get a chance to play for the title. I tell you what, it doesn’t matter who we get, we’re going to give them everything we have left.”

Eastside Catholic (23-6) has been known for football in the last few years, and while Liley admits this is a step in the right direction for the basketball team, he also believes there’s still a ways to go in establishing itself.

“It’s crazy, I never thought Eastside Catholic would be playing in the state finals,” Nathan Christie said. “Obviously, we set that goal for ourselves at the start of the year, but it’s just surreal to actually accomplish that.”

Both teams struggled early, seemingly feeling each other out in a sluggish first half. It was exactly the type of game that Liley was hoping for, though. Believing Wilson (23-4) had more athleticism, the Crusdaers attempted to slow the game down.

Putting an emphasis on half-court offensive sets would make execution incredibly important. And that’s an area Eastside Catholic felt it would have an advantage

“We are an execution-style team and that’s a big deal to us,” Liley said. “Either someone’s going to beat us in our halfcourt game or it’s our job to make sure we win that type of basketball game.”

The Crusaders looked as if they would break the game open early in the fourth quarter, extending their lead to 44-32 after the Rams had closed to within seven. Wilson wouldn’t let them pull away, although it was unable to get within seven the rest of the way.

The 6-foot-4 Christie scored 23 points for the Crusaders, using his height against the smaller Wilson guards to his advantage on the block. It was his three-pointer with about three minutes left, though, that stemmed what would be the Rams’ final push.

“He’s our senior captain, he’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever coached, he absolutely is the smartest player I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” Liley said.

Wilson will play Bellevue for third place at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday.

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