Braeden Smith turned potential disaster into victory in the span of five seconds on Friday night.
With just five ticks left, the Seattle Prep junior missed an open six-foot jumper off the left block. Four seconds later, he stole an O’Dea inbounds pass after a second foul in less than two seconds, and got to the rim for the game-winning basket at the buzzer as Seattle Prep beat the Irish 62-61 at Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion.
The victory earned the Panthers (11-2) their first Metro League boys basketball championship since 2005, and avenged an earlier-season loss to O’Dea.
“Coach Kelly always tells us to play to the end buzzer,” Smith said. “When we got the first foul, coach told me to read his eyes on the second one. I was able to get the steal, get the layup.”
Even earlier, Smith had a couple of chances almost put this one away.
With 57 seconds left, he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Seattle Prep led it 59-58 at the time.
O’Dea, though, couldn’t convert on the other end, and with 27 seconds remaining, Smith was fouled again. He made one of two, extending the Panthers lead to 60-58.
Dezjay Perkins, who scored 13 of his 17 points for the Irish in the fourth quarter, gave O’Dea the lead with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 16 seconds left.
After a timeout, Seattle Prep brought the ball up the floor. Smith made a nice move, drove to the left block and had an open look that bounced off the back iron and was rebounded by O’Dea’s Joe Colleran.
The Panthers fouled immediately with 3.6 seconds left to play.
But it was only the fifth team foul of the second half on Seattle Prep. O’Dea inbounded, and the Panthers fouled again, this time with 2.2 seconds remaining.
That’s when Smith got into eye-reading mode.
“It was tough for sure,” Smith said. “But during the timeouts, Coach Kelly and my teammates were telling me to stay positive, telling me to keep going. That they believe in me.”
Smith rewarded them with the big play, capping a night in which he scored a game-high 24 points with a league championship victory.
“O’Dea has had our number for a number of years, basketball-wise,” Seattle Prep coach Mike Kelly said. “And it looked like they might have had our number again. But I think our kids put in the work, and as long as there is time on the clock they are going to find a way to get it.”
The dramatic finish happened only because of a furious fourth-quarter rally from O’Dea.
Seattle Prep had started the third quarter with a 16-4 onslaught that staked the Panthers to a 45-29 lead. The advantage was 50-35 heading into the final eight minutes.
“It went pretty quick,” Kelly said. “But I don’t think anybody expected this game to be a 15- or 20-point win. That was just going to be silly. They went on a run.”
The Irish run began and ended with Perkins three-pointers. The first came with 7:51 to play and started a 15-4 push to cut the O’Dea deficit to just one point, 54-53, with 2:29 left.
Kyle Carlesimo, even on an off-shooting night, buried a three-pointer just 14 seconds later to extend the lead back to four, 57-53. But the Irish continued the push through until the final Perkins three to take a 61-60 lead with 16 seconds remaining.
That set up the Smith heroics at the end, which set off a euphoric celebration.
“First of all, you’ve got a league championship in the most competitive league in the state,” Kelly said. “Second of all, you’ve got over 100 years of legacy between two schools playing each other. There are fourth-generation graduates who figured out how to use YouTube to watch this game tonight, and I’m sure they’ve been texting each other and giving each other grief all night long.”