The cat-and-mouse game of Seattle Prep’s powerful inside play and Lincoln’s 94 feet of in-your-chest pressure in the Class 3A regional round of the state tournament came down to a sophomore staring at the two biggest free throws of his life on Friday night.
And what did Seattle Prep’s Aaron Nettles do? He did not hesitate in ending the Abes’ season.
Unrattled, the Panthers guard sank both free throws with eight seconds to go, and the sixth-ranked Panthers edged No. 7 Lincoln, 67-63, at Mount Tahoma High School.
It is the second consecutive year the Abes (22-4) lost a regional round game at this very site. They were eliminated last season by Bellevue.
“Their size did bother us,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “But I don’t think we played our best. I thought we played a little tight, maybe. It was one of those games where we tried too hard.”
That was understandable as this game wasn’t about just a spot in the state quarterfinals. This was about metro Tacoma trying to beat a Metro League school from Seattle.
Seattle Prep (20-7) had so much size, led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Collin Welp, the son of former University of Washington standout Christian Welp, and his 16 points, with the 6-8 J’raan Brooks chipping in 15 points.
Two Nettles’ free throws gave the Panthers a 56-46 lead with 3:32 remaining.
But Josiah Barsh and Trevion Brown would not let the Abes go quietly. Brown scored 20 points, including 11 points scored in the final 5 minutes, 18 seconds of the game.
And when Barsh (22 points) banked in a crazy 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining, the Panthers’ lead was cut to 65-63.
“After I hit that shot, I thought we had life again,” Barsh said.
Nettles was immediately fouled, walked the length of the court to the free throw line and saw his two senior teammates — Jordan Kitchen and Jack Stewart.
“I told them, ‘I got you,’ ” Nettles said.
Nettles knocked both foul shots down, and bounced Lincoln out of the postseason.
CLASS 2B BOYS REGIONAL
But the longtime coach has one crazier thing in mind.
“If we win state,” Lovelady said, “I might walk home (from Spokane).”
The 2B Pacific champions nearly blew a 19-point lead in the second half, but escaped when senior Andy Comfort knocked down two free throws with 14.4 seconds to go at Mount Tahoma High School.
Prior to that, the Wolverines (18-6) went on a 15-1 run over a span of 4:47 in the fourth quarter to give themselves a shot to tie — and possibly win.
“Obvious end-of-game jitters,” Lovelady said.
Friday Harbor’s Peter Strasser sank a 14-footer along the right baseline to trim the Eagles’ lead to 49-47 with 1:27 to go.
And after two missed shots, and a turnover on the other end by the Eagles, the Wolverines had a big opportunity — but Kyle Jangard could not corral Bill Revercomb’s pass near the free throw line resulting in a turnover.
After Comfort was fouled, his first free throw hit the back of the rim, but fell through. He made the second one — and the Eagles (25-1) punched their ticket to Spokane.
“This means a lot to me, not just for our program, but for this group of kids,” Lovelady said. “Some of these seniors were on the team that was 1-19 three years ago.”
Comfort finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Luke Lovelady added 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.