As the Eastside Catholic Crusaders (ECHS) and O’Dea Fighting Irish rivalry opened with back-and-forth shots, the Crusaders took the early lead, 10-8, with a 3-pointer from Will Hamilton that energized the crowd and the home team. With additional buckets from Yabi Aklog and Jacob Cofie, the first quarter ended with a slim 18-13 Crusader advantage.
In the second quarter, the Crusaders continued aggressive play at the net with baskets from Alex Elston and Cofie. The Irish’s Malcolm Clark followed with 3-pointers for his team, but the Crusaders managed to hold an easy lead, 37-24, to finish the first half.
The Crusaders set the tone for the third quarter when Cofie took charge with dynamic play that included a hanging dunk. But the Irish, living up to their mascot name, were not willing to give up the fight. In an unexpected twist, they reversed the lead, 43-41, and roused the crowd with a series of 3-point buckets. With momentum on their side, the Irish could not be stopped as Quincey Brown and Clark’s partnership ended the quarter, 50-42, holding the surprise turnaround lead for the visiting team.
In a bid to rally in the final quarter, the Crusaders struggled to regain composure, allowing the Irish’s Brian Webster to add a pair of 3-pointers to the board, widening the gap. As tensions mounted for the Crusaders, Elston scored a pair of dunk shots, but a series of fouls compounded frustrations for the home team.
In the end, when the final buzzer rang, the Irish took home the win with a score of 66-60.
In the postseason Metro League 3A Championship tournament, Eastside Catholic will play at home on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7:00 p.m. The opponent is still undetermined.