Heading into the final weeks of the season, most figured Bellarmine Prep and South Kitsap — both preseason 4A Narrows League boys basketball favorites — would have something significant on the line when they played Wednesday night.
But instead of it being for the league lead, it was a matchup for their playoff lives.
It was really do-or-die time for the defending league champion Lions, who easily played their best half of the season in throttling South Kitsap, 62-40, in Tacoma.
Malachi Flynn scored 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the first quarter that got Bellarmine Prep (6-9, 3-5 in 4A Narrows) off and running. Mar’kese Jackson added 15 as the Lions made 14 of their first 23 field-goal attempts.
Flynn’s fourth 3-pointer from the right corner with 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter gave the Lions a 25-9 lead.
“We are always talking about getting a good start,” Flynn said. “I was open, so I shot the 3-pointers, and they went down in this game. That gave energy to the rest of the team, and we played hard.”
On the other side, the Wolves were simply out of sorts. Standout guard Caulin Bakalarski missed his first nine shots, and South Kitsap made just 3 of 16 shots in the first eight minutes.
“There was no patience,” South Kitsap coach John Callaghan said. “We didn’t run an offense. It works out way better when you are open, and we were flinging it up there.”
That is just kind of how these schools’ seasons have unexpectedly unfolded. While talented, the Wolves (9-5, 2-4) have lost three league games in the final minute — and the Lions have also lost late leads in recent losses against Yelm and Stadium.
Both schools trail league leader Stadium, Yelm and Gig Harbor in the standings. The top four teams out of the 4A Narrows advance to the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament next month.
“This was a Narrows League playoff game for us,” Lions coach Bernie Salazar said. “We are in survival mode.”
It just got worse and worse for the Wolves on Wednesday, too.
Carson Hollyoak hit a top-of-the arc 3-pointer to push the Bellarmine Prep lead to 29-9 with five minutes left in the first half.
After Bakalarski answered with a 3-pointer for the Wolves, the Lions got the basketball to 6-foot-4 junior Rex Bodoia charging down the baseline, and the forward flushed home his second dunk.
Callaghan immediately called timeout, ran onto the floor and got into his players. He yelled, “Toughen up, all right?”
It just never happened.
“They hit shots, but they had open looks at shots,” Callaghan said. “We were just not ready to play, and that was on me. We have to figure that out. We were not focused. We were not intense. We had nothing.”
Callaghan’s standouts — Bakalarski and Ryley Callaghan, his son — combined to go 6-for-31 from the floor, scoring 25 of the team’s points.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org