TACOMA – Mt. Spokane reached its first state title game in program history last year behind a senior-driven team and sophomore phenom. The run was ended by O’Dea and one of the nation’s top recruits – Paolo Banchero.
The Wildcats won’t get a rematch this year.
Braeden Smith scored 20 points, including 12 in the decisive third quarter, and No. 9 Seattle Prep eliminated No. 8 Mt. Spokane 74-50 in the first round of the State 3A tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
“For losing eight seniors (from) last year we had a really good run this year,” Greater Spokane League Player of the Year Tyson Degenhart said. “But I wish we could have had more out of it.”
Seattle Prep (23-6) earned the right to face Banchero and No. 7 O’Dea in a quarterfinal on Thursday. The Panthers finished third in the Metro League Mountain Division behind No. 1 Eastside Catholic and O’Dea this season and have won five straight elimination games through district and regionals to reach the quarters.
Mt. Spokane (19-6) was led by Degenhart with 21 points and seven rebounds. The Wildcats shot just 38% overall – and 4 of 21 from beyond the arc. Trailing by four at intermission, the Wildcats were outscored 23-15 in the third and 20-8 in the fourth.
“They had a good game plan and they dared us to shoot,” Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast said. “We did a good job of getting the ball in the right people’s hands and we couldn’t knock down the shots we’ve been making all year.”
Seattle Prep had five in double figures and shot 59%, including 10 of 18 from 3.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Wagenblast said. “The ball didn’t go in the hole. And on their end, oh my gosh, they shot the ball well.”
Degenhart scored on a couple of inside baskets and Connor Marll (10 points) hit a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 11-7 early. Marll’s third 3 of the quarter stretched the lead to seven and Mt. Spokane led 17-12 after one.
The Wildcats went up 21-13, and Seattle Prep coach Michael Kelly called timeout. Smith and Jared Roznos (13 points) hit back-to-back 3s to put the Panthers up 22-21. Degenhart halted a 12-4 run with a spin move and JoJo Anderson’s layup in traffic returned the lead to the Wildcats.
But Neven Marinkovic hit a 3-pointer next time down and Kyle Carlesimo’s layup just before the horn put Seattle Prep up 31-27 at intermission.
Degenhart led scorers with 10 points at the break, while Nic Welp and Smith had eight apiece for the Panthers. Mt. Spokane went 3 of 14 from long distance in the first, with all three makes from Marll.
“Sometimes they’re just a little on the rim,” Degenhart said. “It was just one of those type of days.”
Early in the third, Degenhart hit a 3 from the top of the key, and a fastbreak layup by Trayce Atkins drew the Wildcats within one. But Smith knocked down a long 3-pointer for a 10-2 run and the Panthers led 43-35 with 4 minutes to go in the third.
Smith’s 3-pointer a minute later pushed the lead to 11, then he drove the lane twice for uncontested layups. Smith had 12 in the quarter and Seattle Prep led 54-42 after three.
“We normally pride ourselves on defense and then it got away from us,” Wagenblast said.
Smith and Roznos hit from long distance to open the fourth and the lead grew to 16.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats couldn’t buy a bucket from the outside, which led to more double-teams against Degenhart underneath. Mt. Spokane never found a run to get back in it, and Wagenblast emptied his bench with 2 1/2 minutes left down 67-48.
“We know we had a good scouting report,” Degenhart said. “They had a lot of shots go in and and we couldn’t get stops. That was about it.”
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