By the third quarter, O’Dea coach Jason Kerr had seen enough — three-pointers.
The outside shot clanked off the rim repeatedly, irritating the coach to the point of banning threes for his team against No. 6 Seattle Prep on Friday. The third-ranked Fighting Irish didn’t need the shot anyway to pull off a 68-51 road win.
“We started falling in love with the three coming out,” said O’Dea junior Paolo Banchero, a five-star recruit. “Usually, for us, we start hitting threes because we start off inside getting a flow. When he (Kerr) told us to get to the basket, that’s what we did.”
The Fighting Irish opened the second half on a 7-2 spurt build a 42-26 lead with 4:45 on the clock.
After a Prep bucket, O’Dea junior Max Debiec missed a three-pointer, prompting Kerr to blurt “I’ve had enough threes.”
Banchero responded with a two-handed dunk — one of four in the game — to give O’Dea a 46-31 lead. Later, teammate Jermaine Davis had a nice dish to Banchero inside the paint to put their team up 51-34 at the buzzer ending the third quarter.
O’Dea (16-3, 15-1 Metro League) continued the textbook work inside during the final quarter to close out the win.
Banchero led his team with 38 points and 12 rebounds. Senior Nic Welp led Prep with 17 points.
“We had some lapses where we over played or we jumped and they threw over us and that’s where (Banchero) got a lot of his points, just off of dunks,” said Welp, a 6-foot-8 post of matching up with the 6-10 Banchero. “But we did better than we thought we would against them.”
Prep (16-4, 12-4) played its second straight game with a completely healthy lineup. Welp suffered a knee injury in December and wears a brace.
After the Panthers scored first, Banchero answered the three-pointer with a no-look pass to Dezjay Perkins. The Fighting Irish closed the first quarter up 13-7. In the second, O’Dea went to work inside the paint to get points.
Perkins used a spin move to get open for a short jumper and teammate Jaylon Ellis followed the play with a steal and breakaway layin while being fouled. The series gave O’Dea a 31-21 lead with 1:26 left in the half.
O’Dea was up 33-24 at halftime.
“It just felt really good to play with everyone again,” Welp said.
Seeding for the Metro League tournament was set before Friday’s regular-season finale. O’Dea, the defending Class 3A boys basketball state champions, are the No. 3 seed, finishing behind Garfield and Eastside Catholic, and will host its game Monday.
“We wanted to finish out strong, for sure,” Banchero said. “We’re a little upset about the No. 3 seed, but it’s not going to stop anything that we’re trying to do.”