Both Bellarmine Basketball teams set to play for 3rd Place in League

Thursday, Feb. 2 was not the greatest night for Bellarmine Basketball. With both the Boys and Girls Varsity teams competing in the league semi-finals, there was hope that at least one team would pull off a victory. However, both teams were playing on the road against opponents who they fell too earlier in the season so it was always going to be difficult.

For the girls, it was a game at Emerald Ridge. The girls finished the season 11-2, tied with ER as the second best record in the league, but because ER had the head-to-head win, they got the #2 seed and Bellarmine was #3. As the 3rd seed Bellarmine hosted their league quarterfinals game against Bethel (6), and won 72-61 to advance into the semifinals. It was a closer game than expected, but the Lions win capped off a perfect 11-0 month of January. Because the Sumner (1) and ER (2) we’re also victorious, Bellarmine was sent to Ridge, in a 2 vs 3 seed matchup to determine who goes to the league finals. Despite having lost to ER early in the season, there was good reason to believe that the Lady Lions could pull off the upset victory.

The Lions started out hot, hitting outside shots and getting to the rim in transition, a formula which has worked all year for the Lions. They led all the way up until the fourth quarter when the game started to slowly slip away. The Jaguars seemingly couldn’t miss and took advantage of a controversial decision made by the Lions when they switched into a 2-3 zone. The whole concept of a 2-3 zone is to force tough midrange and outside shots, not allowing the offense to penetrate into the paint. Because of this the decision to switch into a zone was somewhat confusing and allowed Emerald Ridge to shoot their way back into the game. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a technical foul on the Bellarmine coaching staff in the fourth quarter. Attempting to avoid a five second violation coach Miller called a timeout to retain possession yet there was no indication from the referees the timeout was called and a 5 second violation was indicated. The Lions argued the call and a technical foul was called which led to a pair of free throws both of which were converted for the Jaguars. The Lions tried to stay in the game but the Jaguars took advantage of the few mistakes and unfortunately, their 11 game win streak came to an end against Emerald Ridge. They will have a chance to play for third place in the SPSL on Saturday at TCC against Olympia.

The Boys team had a more difficult path to the league semifinals. They finished the season with back to back wins to reach a winning record of 7-6, but due to a three-way tie with both Rogers and Sumner, Bellarmine ended up finishing 6th place in the league. That meant they would have to play on the road against #3 Graham-Kapowsin (8-5), a team they had beaten earlier in the year. The Lions went on the road and won again against a solid GK team, in a game which was highlighted by Senior Malik Momoh breaking the school record for most charges in a season, with 26. That win meant Bellarmine would have to play at #2 Curtis in the league semifinals. Curtis had already beaten the Lions badly twice this year, first by 37 and then again by 18. So there was reason to believe that the third attempt would not be any different.

Instead, the Lions came out and shocked the Vikings by keeping up with them throughout the entire first half. Led by Seniors Malik Momoh and Matteo Smith, Bellarmine traded scores with Curtis throughout the first quarter. A three-pointer by Senior Tony Scarola put the Lions on top 19-18 early in the second quarter, which clearly had the Curtis team scared. That would be the last time the Lions led all night, but the game was still competitive. Bellarmine went into the half down 32-27, and came out looking good. Midway through the third quarter the Lions trailed by two, 36-34, and looked like they were going to hang with them the whole game.

A few bad foul calls later and 5-Star Athlete Zoom Diallo led Curtis on a 15-2 run, which unfortunately the Lions weren’t able to recover from. Still, the final score of 63-53 was a much better result than nearly anyone could have predicted. Momoh led the Lions in scoring with 15 points, but four of their five starters reached double digits in scoring. The problem throughout the night for Bellarmine was committing too many fouls in crucial situations. The refs blew the whistle on the Lions 12 times, which gave lots of free points to the Vikings. Some of those foul calls were debatable, in a game where referees likely made more than one mistake, and probably should have made far fewer calls for both sides (Curtis also had 10 fouls).

So what’s next for the Lions? Although neither team is playing in the league finals, both teams are locked into having a top-8 seed in the district tournament. The girls will be playing at 3 pm on Saturday at TCC against Olympia for third place in the SPSL, which would give them the fifth seed in districts. They are favored to win, they already beat Olympia this year and the Bears are a much worse team overall. The boys will be taking on Sumner also for third place in the SPSL, at 4:45 pm on Saturday, also at TCC. They lost to Sumner twice this year, but both games were close enough that there’s no reason the Lions can’t get revenge in round three. If either team were to lose, they would finish 4th place in the SPSL, which would give them the 7th seed in districts, as opposed to the 5th. Both the 5th and 7th seed in districts play road games on Saturday, February 11th.

The final score of the Boys Basketball game on Feb. 2. (Levi Coovert)