There were giant differences between the Seattle Prep and Spanaway Lake boys basketball teams in the Sentinels’ 64-45 loss on Friday at Bellevue College.
Literally and figuratively.
It wasn’t just that eighth-ranked Seattle Prep of the dominant Metro League had 6-foot-10 Nic Lynch and 6-foot-9 Collin Welp in its starting lineup while Spanaway Lake didn’t have a player taller than 6-5.
The Panthers are accustomed to the pressure of the state tournament. They’ve been to state 19 times, with 39 wins and two state titles.
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Spanaway Lake was entering state for the second time in school history — and first time since 1985 — with zero state tournament victories.
“You could just tell — the first time being here, guys were a little tense,” Sentinels coach Dominic Batten said. “Big platform for us. Prep was the team that was definitely more loose, and it looked like they had been here before.”
One more win and Spanway Lake would have been playing in the Tacoma Dome for the first time in school history.
But Batten focused on all the strides his program made this season, talking to his players afterward about the history they did make.
“We know the loss doesn’t take that away from us,” Batten said. “Now we know what it takes to get here. You can’t substitute experience. You can’t.”
Though you can’t substitute size, either.
Lynch scored the first eight points of the game –— all from the post. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Welp — the son of the late UW legend Christian Welp — had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
It was the same formula for Seattle Prep that it used in its first meeting against Spanaway Lake in a 74-50 nonleague win at the ShoWare Center on Jan. 16 — and against most teams for that matter.
“Most teams we play we have the size advantage,” Lynch said. “Even in the Metro League, where we play against some pretty big dudes. We just stressed it more this week, and we had a good week of practice.”
Seattle Prep outrebounded Spanaway Lake, 37-29.
But the biggest rebound of the game might have been from 6-4 Colin Gale. Jaxon Woodward missed a pair of free throws, but Gale darted through the key for the rebound and got the putback bucket to give Seattle Prep a 21-18 lead early in the second quarter.
That started a 17-4 run for the Panthers that continued into the third quarter.
“It was just us not getting on the glass,” Spanaway Lake’s Isaiah Turner said. “They are really tall, but we’ve just got to put more effort on the glass and have more heart. That’s what it took to win tonight, and we didn’t have it.”
Turner scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.
Batten will begin his work scouring the Spanaway Lake hallways for more size. But he’ll bask in the fact that the Sentinels will return each of their top five leading scorers — juniors Turner, Divante Moffitt, Jordan Garner, Ja’Ontay Foster and Derek Gordon Jr.
And Batten is expecting to bring back his assistant coaches as part of turning around the Sentinels’ program. He said this was the first time in his four years that he’s been able to retain them.
“We are the first team in 32 years to get to state. We were just talking about that and how the seniors — those guys — were the first class to get us to state (since 1985),” Turner said. “So be proud of that. We made it this far and that’s progress.
“We want to remember this feeling of being one game away from (the Tacoma Dome) and bring it into next year, and have more fire and more intensity and bring leadership and veteran leadership to the team next year.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 8 SEATTLE PREP
SL: Isaiah Turner 21, Divante Moffitt 10, Stephan Gadsden 2, Ja’Ontay Foster 2, Jordan Garner 4, Daishond Jackson 4, Noah Felagai 2.
SP: Stricklin 5, Trifunovic 6, Nettles 11, Jinkens 2, Gale 4, Flor 6, Welp 11, Lynch 19.