TACOMA – And the Irish makes four.
The Class 3A state boys basketball tournament already had become the Metro League Invitational. But once Rainier Beach came from behind to beat Kamiakin, the Metro was assured of yet another state title come Saturday evening.
Which team would round out the four Metro teams in Friday’s semifinals was the only question.
O’Dea answered that question with its 65-55 victory over Seattle Prep at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday afternoon. But it took overtime to accomplish the feat for the defending state champs.
That sends the Irish into a 5:30 p.m. semifinal against Rainier Beach. The first Class 3A semifinal at 3:45 will feature Garfield and Eastside Catholic.
“We’re all just great teams,” O’Dea junior Paolo Banchero said.
It was Banchero who turned things around for the Fighting Irish on Thursday.
Seattle Prep got out in front early and continued to lead the quarterfinal through most of the second and third quarters. Behind Braeden Smith, who scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, the Panthers built a 32-28 lead at the half.
Defensively, Seattle Prep held Banchero in check. The 6-foot-10 junior did not score in the first half for O’Dea.
That all changed with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Panthers (23-7) had extended their advantage to its largest of the game 45-36 when Tyler Mrus scored inside with 3:07 left. Banchero answered with an offensive rebound and put-back basket in the lane at 2:51.
That ignited a personal 7-0 run for the Irish big man, who scored 15 of O’Dea’s final 17 points in regulation on his way to a game-high 25. Banchero also had 15 rebounds.
“The turning point in the game was when Paolo inserted himself,” Seattle Prep coach Mike Kelly said.
Banchero offensively ignited O’Dea defensively as the Irish held Seattle Prep to just eight points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the nine-point deficit shrank to two, 45-43, at the end of three quarters.
The run continued as O’Dea scored the first two baskets of the fourth to take its first lead of the game, 47-45, with 5:58 left in the quarter.
“We were down,” Banchero said. “I just woke it up. We didn’t have a shot at state if we lose.”
Seattle Prep closed out the final 3:51 of regulation with a little 6-2 spurt of its own to get the game tied at 53-53. The Panthers had a chance, after getting a defensive stop inside the final 30 seconds, to pull off the upset in regulation.
“I really couldn’t ask for more,” Kelly said. “We had a shot with 10 seconds left, and a second chance in the final four seconds.”
The first chance was blocked out of bounds. After a timeout, the Panthers inbounded under the basket at their offensive end with 4.3 seconds remaining.
Smith got a long 3-pointer off with just over two seconds left that was short. Nic Welp snagged the rebound and put it back toward the rim at the buzzer, but the shot bounced off no good.
“We felt good there,” Kelly said. “I just wish I could have helped them a little bit more with what we called. They’re a very good team. And Paolo is as difficult a matchup as Seattle or the ‘206’ has ever had.”
O’Dea then scored the first eight points of overtime to essentially put it away on two free throws from Banchero with 1:31 left.