Uh-oh, no Sefo?
The last time senior Sefo Liufau was not in the Bellarmine Prep boys basketball lineup, he was recovering from a long football season – one that saw the Lions advance all the way to the this year’s Class 4A state title game.
And Bellarmine Prep got off to a miserable start in its basketball season, losing six of its first seven games to not only drop out of the top 10 in the state rankings, but also – for the short term – fall off the radar.
With Liufau, the Lions are a different team. He is more leader than scorer – an integral piece in Bellarmine Prep’s recent run to the top of the Narrows League 4A standings.
But on Friday, Liufau was gone again – this time on his official football recruiting visit to Colorado, where he is set to play in college.
Did the team learn something from his first extended absence?
Yes, is the resounding answer.
Paced by a hounding defense, and Lucas Meikle’s game-high 25 points, the Lions locked up Stadium, 51-33, in their home gymnasium.
Isaiah Flynn added nine points, and Logan Hickman chipped in with five points off the bench as Bellarmine Prep won its fifth game in a row over a Stadium team that certainly has the makings of a playoff squad.
“Playing without him (Liufau) at the beginning of the year was obviously rough,” Meikle said. “But we learned from that ... and I felt I had to be a lot more aggressive, and make the most from my opportunities.”
Meikle, a 6-foot-9 forward headed to Gonzaga, was fantastic, showcasing his inside-outside capability, scoring in a variety of ways.
But the signature effort came on the defensive end – collectively.
The Lions blocked nine Stadium shots, had six steals and forced the Tigers (7-6, 4-2 in Narrows 4A) not only into rushed field-goal attempts, but also ball-handling mistakes.
“They are moving their feet better,” Stadium coach Doug ’ said of the Bellarmine Prep defenders. “Football may have hurt them, but they are coming around after getting those (basketball) repetitions. That is what defense is – reps.”
Up 20-11 late in the first half, the Lions surged to a big lead in the final 2:45 by going on a 7-0 run. Hickman sank a corner 3-pointer. And after a Meikle basket along the baseline – and two Stadium turnovers – Hickman came barreling across the right baseline for an uncontested lay-in, giving Bellarmine Prep (7-7, 6-1) a 27-11 lead with 50 seconds remaining.
“There is no doubt, we are better with (Liufau),” Bellarmine Prep coach Bernie Salazar said. “Guys are getting used to stepping up. This was a good team win.”