BELLEVUE – Minutes after Seattle Prep’s 72-50 win against Eastside Catholic on Saturday, Prep coach Mike Kelly turned into a travel planner.
He had a road trip to start coordinating.
The Panthers’ win against Eastside Catholic at Bellevue College gave them the fifth and final spot in regionals out of the Sea-King 3A District. They’ll head across the mountains to play in regionals next week.
Once ranked as high as No. 2 in Class 3A this year, Prep had lost four of six games and faced elimination against O’Dea on Friday and against Eastside Catholic on Saturday.
“I’m really proud of our group,” said Kelly, who won his 300th career game against O’Dea. “I think they showed a lot of resolve, a lot of determination throughout the entire week.”
Prep senior D.J. Fenner carried the Panthers in both elimination games. Fenner, who will play next year at Nevada, scored 33 points against Eastside Catholic and made 50 percent of his shots. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
He scored 42 the day before against O’Dea and entered Saturday averaging 28 points per game.
“I’d say that his 75 points over the last two games has been an awfully quiet 75 points,” Kelly said.
Yet as good as Fenner was, Prep received a secondary boost from sophomore Jack Stewart. In shoot-around earlier in the day, Stewart rarely missed, and Fenner told him that the Panthers would look to get him the ball.
Stewart hadn’t cooled off by tipoff: He knocked down five three-pointers, including one with 0.9 seconds left in the third quarter. That shot, which he banked in, gave Prep a 50-36 lead.
“He stepped up big time for us,” Fenner said.
Prep led by just two at halftime, but the Panthers started pulling away in the third quarter. And when Kelly sat Fenner and Laurence Hicks, Prep’s second-leading scorer, for more than two minutes in the quarter, Prep didn’t miss a step.
Led by Stewart, freshman Sean Gummersall and sophomore Jordan Kitchen – a trio Kelly calls the team’s “little babies” – the Panthers actually grew their lead by one. Stewart, Gummersall and Kitchen combined for six points during the two-minute stretch without Fenner and Hicks.
Mandrell Worthy led Eastside Catholic with 21 points, but the Crusaders made just 6 of 23 three-pointers (26 percent).