It wasn’t even a week ago that Kentwood High’s Jackson Huerta sank a half-court overtime buzzer-beater to lift the Conquerors to a one-point victory and advance them to the 4A West Central District III tournament.
Bellarmine Prep didn’t offer him the chance for another.
Kentwood hung with the Lions for 31/2 quarters before 10th-ranked Bellarmine Prep tightened its defense, recorded 10 unanswered points, and secured a 55-40 victory at home.
The Lions held the Conquerors scoreless for more than four minutes with time winding down in the fourth quarter as they increased a six-point lead with 5 minutes, 4 seconds to go, to 53-37 with 58 seconds remaining
“Our experience really helped us down the stretch,” said Bellarmine Prep’s Lucas Meikle, a Gonzaga-bound senior who finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. “They cut it to six, and we finally just said, ‘Enough is enough.’”
The Lions entered the game on a 13-game winning streak and having just won the 4A Narrows League title, but it was Kentwood with all the buzz following Huerta’s heroics in a 53-52 overtime win against Emerald Ridge on Saturday. It saved the Conquerors’ season and gave them a ticket into the district tournament despite tying for sixth in the SPSL North Division with an 8-8 record.
But Kentwood appeared to grab some momentum of its own against Bellarmine Prep, holding the lead through the first six minutes. The Conquerors even saw another Huerta buzzer-beater — except this one came at the end of the first quarter.
Huerta didn’t score much outside of that. He was held to six points on 3-for-13 shooting against the Lions’ tough defense, which surrendered only 18 points in the first half.
“They played us really physical and tough and that made it tough for us to get a lot of good looks,” said first-year Kentwood coach Blake Solomon. “ We didn’t move the ball around like we had done so well with in previous games.”