It’s no secret that the Bellarmine Prep boys basketball team revolves around Malachi Flynn.
Yet teams still haven’t figured out how to slow him down.
Puyallup pressed the entire game Wednesday night and threw occasional double teams Flynn’s way. He still scored 31 points and Bellarmine Prep won the Bellarmine Christmas Classic for the second consecutive year with a 70-59 victory.
Not to say it was all Flynn. Christian Moore added 16 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
But he certainly makes the Lions lethal.
“He is just a really smart, savvy point guard and he’s skilled,” Puyallup coach Scott Campbell said. “Coach (Bernie) Salazar has done a good job building their system around him and the other guys compete and play really hard. They are big, physical high school kids. I think they’re one of the tops teams in the state.”
Bellarmine (8-3) has won eight of its past nine games since starting the season with losses to Lincoln (in overtime) and Curtis. Its only other loss was against Bishop Montgomery of California (the 11th-ranked team in the nation by MaxPreps) in the championship game of the Mission Prep Tournament on Dec. 23 in San Luis Obispo.
Flynn has scored at least 30 points in seven of those 11 games. He’s averaging 30.3 points per game.
“He’s a real good player and I’m real glad he’s on our team,” Salazar said, chuckling. “I think he’s just worked really hard to prepare himself for this point. He works real hard in practice.”
“I think I can kill any defense,” Flynn said. “I knew I could do this. I put in the work in the offseason.”
Flynn hit back-to-back contested 3-pointers to start the third quarter. That after the Lions held Puyallup to 17 points in the first half.
His bucket with about five and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter put Bellarmine ahead 56-45. But Puyallup stormed back, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Tony Gutierrez and forcing three consecutive turnovers as part of a 12-2 run.
Tyler Torgerson’s layup off a steal with 2:30 remaining cut Bellarmine’s lead to 58-57.
But then Flynn closed it.
He scored eight of the Lions’ final 12 points — he finished the game 11 of 11 from the free-throw line — and they ended with a 12-2 of their own.
“We played good until down the stretch,” Flynn said. “We had a little mental lapse. We got to fix that and we’ll get a lot better.”
By the tone of Salazar’s voice from the bench throughout the game, he certainly believed Bellarmine should have played better.
“We didn’t play our best, but I think we gave it our best,” Salazar said. “I’m really proud of them because they battled and Puyallup is a strong, tough team. A lot of credit to them. Coach Campbell does a great job with them.”
Puyallup (9-2) lost for the first time since a 68-60 loss to Curtis on Dec. 15. Jaden Vollmen scored 21 points and Deven Neff added 15. Puyallup was coming off an overtime win over Lincoln on Tuesday.
“I think the goal coming into this tournament was to play two high-quality teams and we got to experience that,” Campbell said.
“I really like where we are at halfway through the season. Now it’s about keep getting better every day.”
Lincoln 59, Lakes 49: Another fourth-quarter debacle for the Abes?
Almost. Lakes cut what was once a double-digit lead for Lincoln down to four with about a minute remaining, but the Abes forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions that led to dunks on the other end from Anthony Braggs Jr. and Trevion Brown in the third-place game of the Bellarmine Christmas Classic.
Brown scored a game-high 20 points, including a thunderous dunk down the lane in the second quarter.
Lincoln (6-2) took a 49-39 lead early in the fourth one night after losing a lead against Puyallup and suffering its second loss of the season.
Lakes’ Rakeem Hughey then helped bring the Lancers back with back-to-back floaters. He led Lakes (4-6) with 18 points as they cut the lead to 53-49.
The Abes ended the game on a 6-0 run.