KIRKLAND — When point guard Braeden Smith sits, the Seattle Prep boys basketball team clearly isn’t the same team.

But when Smith took a seat this time because of foul trouble, the Panthers didn’t skip a beat.

With forward-turned-point-guard Neven Marinkovic running the show, Seattle Prep widened its lead over Rainier Beach and put the hammer down for a 60-31 triumph over its Metro League rival in the Class 3A regionals on Saturday at Lake Washington High School.

Prep played stifling defense until getting on track on offense in the second half against a Beach team missing two starters.

“We wanted to come in, get back on defense and not allow a lot of transition points,” said Smith, a senior who hopes to lead the Panthers to a state placing for the first time since taking fifth in 2015. “We didn’t want to allow them any easy shots. We wanted them to take tough shots, especially jumpers, and then crash the defensive boards and make sure they don’t get any second-chance opportunities.

“The difference was our defensive intensity. They got a lot of offensive boards the first two times around. We really focused on that.”


Smith managed 20 points and five assists in less than 22 minutes, but the Panthers (20-6) proved their depth to outscore Beach (18-4) 37-11 in the second half. Smith, the 6-foot senior, sat out most of the second half and didn’t return until just 4:10 was left in the game.

“It was tough (sitting), you know I want to be out there playing with the guys,” Smith said. “I’m not usually in foul trouble that often, but it was a good learning experience for me going to the bench, seeing different things and cheering the guys on who were handling the ball and making sure we stayed like a smooth team.”

Seattle Prep’s reward is another contest against a Metro foe.

The fifth-seeded Panthers advance to the Class 3A state quarterfinals on Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Tacoma Dome. They will play the winner of Wednesday’s Eastside Catholic vs. O’Dea game.

Fourth-seeded Rainier Beach, which owns nine state titles, drops into a loser-out state playoff game against Ferris of Spokane, which beat Arlington 64-45, on Wednesday in a loser-out state contest at 12:15 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome.

Junior wing Christian King asserted himself in Smith’s absence, tallying eight of his 16 points in the third quarter. King buried a three-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer as Seattle Prep turned a 23-20 halftime lead into a 40-25 cushion after three quarters.

“It was definitely different with Braeden, but our defense is more team-based and everyone is trying to be in help (position),” King said. “We also practice having (Braeden) out because we know he’s such a focal point of our team. We practice having him one the sideline for cases like this.”


It was more of the same in the fourth quarter as Prep added to a 12-0 third-quarter with a 18-0 surge in the fourth that was capped by senior Tyler Mrus’s flying two-fisted dunk on a lob from Smith for a 60-28 advantage with 1:53 left in the game. Mrus, who also had a similar two-handed flush early in the fourth, finished with 10 points in the Panthers’ balanced attack.

Freshman Ny’ale Robinson, son of Beach legend and former NBAer Nate Robinson, led the cold-shooting Vikings with 11 points.

“I thought it was a great game for us to have to face some adversity without Braeden,” Seattle Prep coach Michael Kelly said. “I was really happy with how the rest of the team responded without him on the floor. I’m happy with how we’ve progressed throughout the year.”