TACOMA — Mike Kelly didn’t remember exactly what he said.
Whatever it was, his Seattle Prep Panthers responded early in the second quarter of a loser-out, first-round game at the Class 3A boys state basketball tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
When Kelly called timeout with 6 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half, ninth-seeded Seattle Prep trailed No. 8 Mount Spokane by eight points. The Panthers were getting out-rebounded — on the Wildcats offensive end.
After the timeout, Prep rolled off a 9-0 run and never trailed by more than a single point again in a 74-50 victory that propels the Panthers into a 2 p.m. quarterfinal against O’Dea on Thursday.
It was the fifth time this postseason that Seattle Prep played in a must-win game. The Panthers are 5-0 in those contests.
“The kids have shown a tremendous resiliency,” Kelly said. “And, they may be just young enough to not know what’s going on.”
All five starters scored in double figures for Seattle Prep (23-6), led by Braeden Smith’s 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field. Smith was one of two Panthers who made three three-pointers, as well, joined by Jared Roznos.
Seattle Prep buried the Wildcats (20-6) from distance, making 10 of 18 from beyond the arc. All the offense came almost as a surprise.
“Their offense made us so nervous,” Kelly said. “Honestly, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about our offense. We were dialed in defensively.”
Seattle Prep needed to be, with Tyson Degenhart having his way in the lane when facing man-to-man defense. Degenhart finished with a game-high 21 points and had seven rebounds.
Degenhart’s basket with 3:23 left in the second quarter, followed by two free throws from Kylo Simpson halted the Seattle Prep run that got the Panthers back in the game. But JoJo Anderson’s two with 1:17 that put Mount Spokane up, 27-26, would be the Wildcats’ last lead.
Neven Marinkovic responded with a three-pointer for Prep. Kyle Carlesimo made a short jumper with two seconds left in the half and the Panthers took a 31-27 advantage at halftime.
“Our motto is ‘Want it More,’” Smith said. “You’ve just got to give it your all every game.”
Mount Spokane did get the game tied one more time, opening the third quarter with a 6-2 spurt that knotted things at 33-33 with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
But that’s when Smith took things into his own hands.
Smith scored 10 of his 20 points over the final 4:38 of the quarter as Seattle Prep steadily pulled away. The Panthers outscored Mount Spokane 21-9 close out the third and took a 54-42 lead into the final eight minutes. Despite three Panthers missing the front end of one-and-one chances in less than a minute, Prep’s lead never shrunk below 13 in the final quarter.
Roznos made a three-pointer to open the scoring in the final eight minutes, putting Seattle Prep up 57-42 with 7:27 to play. Degenhart responded with a basket 23 seconds later, but that was as close as it ever would be.
Prep faces an Irish team that demolished it 68-51 near the end of the Metro League regular season. That was the teams’ only meeting this season.
It is the first game in the last four that will not be loser-out for Seattle Prep.
“We better show up,” Kelly said. “Because they will.”