SEATTLE — Mike Kelly’s message to Braeden Smith may as well have come from Seattle Prep football coach Aaron Maul.
Don’t chase the ball. Watch the inbounder’s eyes. Trust your instincts.
In other words, “be a free safety,” Kelly said
Smith, Seattle Prep’s standout guard (and, relevantly, star receiver/defensive back), did just that, turning on his football instincts to pick off a baseline inbound and score a contested buzzer-beating layup with two seconds left.
The heroic, how-did-he-do-that final effort lifted Seattle Prep to a Metro League championship win over O’Dea, 62-61, on Friday night and turned the gym at Seattle Pacific University into a madhouse.
Well, except for maybe Maul.
“I read his eyes, got the steal, made the layup,” Smith, a junior, said. “It’s crazy. We wanted this real bad. We wanted to hang a banner.”
And now, the Panthers (9-1) will. Smith scored a game-high 24 points in a back-and-forth game, in which the momentum veered O’Dea’s way in the final frame. Prep withstood blow after blow in the fourth quarter, which included the evaporation of a 15-point lead and three fourth quarter 3s from Irish senior Dezjay Perkins.