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Originally published March 8, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Page modified March 8, 2014 at 11:58 PM

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Garfield beats Richland, 68-59, to win 4A state title | Boys basketball

Tramaine Isabell scores 34 points to carry top-ranked Bulldogs to its 12th state title in school history and first since 1998.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Garfield by the numbers

12 Number of state titles Garfield has won.

1998 Last time Garfield had won a state title before Saturday.

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TACOMA – Tramaine Isabell stood on the same court a year removed from the most heartbreaking moment of his basketball career. The situation wasn’t the same, but the stakes were just as high.

A pair of free throws would clinch a state title. A miss would leave the door open to disappointment.

Isabell found redemption Saturday evening, sinking a pair of free throws to give No. 1 Garfield a two-possession lead with just more than a minute left. The Bulldogs’ lead never dipped below four down the stretch and they captured the 4A state championship with a 68-59 win over No. 3 Richland at the Tacoma Dome.

“I told myself walking up to the line — I took a deep breath — and I was like, ‘Man, you’ve been here before, there’s nothing to be scared about.’” Isabell said. “I calmed myself down, got loose and went in.”

In last season’s 3A title game, Isabell, then playing for Lakeside, missed the front end of a one-and-one with one second left in a tie game. Lakeside went on to lose to Rainier Beach in overtime.

Isabell admitted he didn’t have a free-throw routine last season and put in extra work at the line during the summer, developing a rhythm and sense of familiarity. The result paid off as Isabell hit 12 of 16 attempts Saturday, including his last three.

The senior guard was tremendous all night, pouring in 34 points, grabbing seven rebounds and doing everything Garfield (24-1) asked of him. Isabell scored 22 in the first half, but became more of a distributor in the second half.

“I told him all year that, ‘Hey man, listen, when it gets down to championship time, the ball’s going to be in your hands and you’re the best player, so you make the plays,’ ” Garfield coach Ed Haskins said. “That’s just basketball. It’s the same thing with the Miami Heat, it’s same thing with Kentucky, it’s same thing with anybody.

“When you have a player like Tramaine on this level you use him, you put the ball in his hands. I’d be a dumb coach if I didn’t do that.”

Richland (25-1) jumped out to a 14-4 lead early before Isabell scored 10 points in a 12-0 run to get the Bulldogs back in it before the end of the first quarter. The teams dueled it out from there in an entertaining battle.

Garfield broke a 58-58 tie and took the lead for good when Torrence Baker hit a pair of free throws with 2:34 remaining. Baker was fouled attempting a layup after Isabell found him with a nifty pass. After a turnover on the next possession by the Bombers, Isabell hit the two free throws to extend Garfield’s lead.

Richland has been outstanding from beyond the arc this season, but hit just 4 of 16 attempts and had very few open looks.

“Shots weren’t falling at the right times,” said Richland guard Steven Beo, who had 22 points. “They just pressured us the whole time. Played a factor, made us rush a little bit.”

It is Garfield’s 12th championship, the most in state history, but just the first since 1998.

“Garfield is legendary,” said Haskins, who grew up in Tacoma. “I don’t care what anybody says or anybody does. The Mecca of basketball that everybody knew what it was, it was Garfield — in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’60s. Now, this is the 12th one. We’re just part of a legacy.”

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