Defense leads Lions over Tides

Staff writerDecember 21, 2013 

It is still December but the rumor of Bellarmine Prep’s great demise in Narrows 4A League boys basketball is just that — a rumor.

Off to a slower start than many expected, the Lions rebounded with a wicked third quarter, breaking away for a 59-49 victory over visiting Gig Harbor on Friday night.

Mar’kese Jackson led Bellarmine Prep (2-4, 1-2 in Narrows 4A) with 16 points. Carson Hollyoak added 14, including a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the third quarter that really stole the show.

The Tides (3-3, 2-1), who have been one of the early-season surprises, were led by Casey Gearhart’s 14 points.

It is understandable how the Lions could struggle in the early going. They lost the entire nucleus of their team, led by Gonzaga-bound Lucas Meikle, in June to graduation. They are running a new offense, too, the perpetually-in-motion Princeton offense.

Yet what enabled them to pull away duirng a tight game was an urgent, punishing style of man-to-man defense to start the second half.

After Gearhart’s bucket tied the game at 27 on Gig Harbor’s first possession, the Lions then held the Tides scoreless for the next 6 minutes, 20 seconds (0-for-9 on field goals, three turnovers).

“They look like they’ve been in the weight room,” Gig Harbor coach Billy Landram said. “They’re pretty physical.”

And it didn’t just come from pressure on the perimeter. Lions undersized 6-foot-3 post player Will Wolf had the daunting task of keeping 6-foot-8 Nick Edens out of the paint – and more than held his own on both ends.

“If you can defend, you give yourself a chance to win,” Bellarmine Prep coach Bernie Salazar said. “The guys did a good job.”

Gig Harbor cut it to 37-34 on Chris Drake’s nifty runner with five seconds to go in the third quarter. Hollyoak then got the ball at midcourt near the right sideline, and made a one-handed heave at the buzzer for a dramatic 3-pointer.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it off, to be honest. I kind of got hit from behind, and grabbed it with one hand and threw it up,” Hollyoak said.

“It was one of those, you throw it up and you start backpedaling and you are like, ‘Oh, that might have a chance.’ And then it goes in, and you don’t know what to do, so you go crazy.”

Wolf scored for the Lions to open the fourth quarter, and then they scored on five consecutive trips, capped by another Wolf layup, to grab a 50-37 advantage with 3:47 to go.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com

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