The Panthers’ duo of Nic Lynch and Collin Welp helped Seattle Prep overpower Spanaway Lake 64-45 in a loser-out regional game at Bellevue College. Chinwe Ezeonu scored 21 points for the Prep girls in a 55-53 victory over Prairie.

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The Seattle Prep boys basketball team knew what it had to do to get to Tacoma.

Feed the bigs.

The Panthers’ duo of Collin Welp and Nic Lynch, who stand 6 feet 9 and 6-10, respectively, gave Seattle Prep a decided height advantage over Spanaway Lake. Lynch finished with 19 points and eight rebounds and Welp added 11 points and 12 rebounds as Seattle Prep defeated the Sentinels 64-45 in a loser-out Class 3A regional game Friday night at Bellevue College.

Seattle Prep (18-8) heads back to next week’s Class 3A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome after a one-year hiatus.

“You can’t just be big and tall, they’ve got to be skilled. And our bigs are skilled,” said Michael Kelly, Seattle Prep’s coach. “… It was a pretty obvious advantage for us.”

Lynch helped the Panthers, who finished fourth in Metro League and were ranked No. 11 by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Rating Percent Index, get off to a fast start with eight points in the opening quarter. Seattle Prep’s defense grabbed eight steals as the Panthers began to pull away from No. 14 Spanaway Lake, which doesn’t have anyone taller than 6-5.

“Obviously (Lynch) and (Welp), they’re big kids,” said Spanaway Lake coach Dominic Batten. “… It just was a matchup problem for us from the beginning. Obviously we don’t have a lot of size.”

Senior Aaron Nettles — who has signed with Seattle University — added 11 points for Seattle Prep, which plays the loser of Saturday’s regional game between Timberline and West Seattle. That state-opening loser-out game will be at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s really fun. It’s a special opportunity,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t come easy.”

Junior Isaiah Turner had a game-high 21 points for Spanaway Lake (16-9), which is looking for its first state-tournament win in program history. The Sentinels return the core of their team — including Turner and fellow juniors Divante Moffitt (10 points) and Jordan Garner (six points).

Prep girls prevail

In the girls game, Seattle Prep’s lone senior helped the Panthers make sure the school went 2 for 2 at the regional round of state.

Chinwe Ezeonu scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help Seattle Prep hold off Prairie 55-53 in a loser-out Class 3A regional game at Bellevue College.

“This is her time,” said Michelle Hall, coach for No. 12 Seattle Prep. “She has such a young team with sophomores and freshmen doing the job. It’s beautiful.”

“(Ezeonu) is pretty amazing,” Prairie coach Hala Corral said. “She’s a really, really good player. We tried to mix up some different defenses on her, but she was a pretty dominating player tonight.”

Ezeonu had a key offensive rebound in the game’s final minute to help set up a three-point play by sophomore Bea Franklin. Prairie (20-5) forced a turnover and had a chance in the closing seconds before Franklin stole the ball.

Seattle Prep (20-6) plays the loser of Saturday’s game between Stanwood and Bellevue in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament in a loser-out game at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome.

Brook Walling led No. 13 Prairie with 23 points.