Skip to main content

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Malia Samuels was Malia Samuels – a tough, physical, explosive and high-IQ point guard who helped lead the Garfield High School girls basketball team to a 55-33 win Saturday at Bellevue College over Lakeside of Seattle in the third meeting of the season between the Metro League rivals.

But how about Imbie Jones?

The 6-foot-3 junior has been a revelation this postseason. She and Samuels scored 13 points each as the Bulldogs (17-0) ran away with the 3A Sea-King district championship — a rematch of the Metro League title a week ago.

HIGHLIGHTS: Malia Samuels leads Garfield to district title

Garfield coach Marvin Hall said it’s Jones’ play of late that could make the reigning state champions (from the 2019-20 season) unstoppable, again, in the Tacoma Dome.

“Oh my God – she has been picking up her play,” Hall said. “I challenged her and she has picked up her play a lot.”

Here are two takeaways as the Bulldogs prepare for the top seed in 3A entering the state tournament:


Not much was falling for Garfield in the first half.

Except when the Bulldogs found Jones.

She hit an array of turn-and-face jumpers to give Garfield some offensive life to go with her rebounding on the defensive glass, pacing the Bulldogs to a 26-16 halftime lead.

“She had been a little bit stagnant, not as aggressive,” Hall said of Jones’ previous play entering the postseason. “So I challenged her. We needed her to be more aggressive, to rebound, fight for loose balls and look more for her shot. That’s what colleges are looking for. I told her they’ll fall off if you don’t have those intangibles.

“But the past three games, Imbie has been going crazy.”


And it was only a matter of time before Garfield’s guards got going. Samuels scored nine of her 13 points in the third quarter, including a corner 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 45-18 – capping a 19-2 Garfield run.

It was sparked by a new defense.

Garfield had beat Lakeside 58-46 on Jan. 26, then 64-57 on Feb. 11. Hall knew they had to stop Lakeside’s tough forward combo of Claire O’Connor, the 3A Metro League’s player of the year, and Hannah Dickinson, who signed with USC’s women’s soccer team as a goalkeeper.

But they also wanted to catch Lakeside off guard. So Hall installed a three-quarter court zone press this week.

“We don’t normally drop back into that,” he said. “I just changed it up at the last minute. We started working on it in practice and I said ‘They won’t expect us to do this. They’ll expect us to be up and trapping and press, press, pressing.’ So we told them to just slow it down and play ball like they do – because we can do that.”

They can do that because of all Garfield’s talented, smart guards. Navaeh Talbert added 11 points and Jayda Lewis scored 10. It should say how talented Garfield is that Katie Fiso was held to four points and it still rolled.

“Nobody cares for us who goes off and gets 20 and nobody cares who scores,” said Samuels, who was last playing in the Tacoma Dome two seasons ago with Eastside Catholic. “Everybody just wants to win. And this is great for momentum going into state.”

The only thing left to clean up before heading to the Tacoma Dome?

“Definitely just staying together as a team and not focusing on the social media and whatever else,” Samuels said with a laugh. “Just staying together as a team.” 

---TJ Cotterill; @TJCotterill.