Belmont Bulldogs coach Kevin Brown is the first to admit his senior boys basketball team isn’t blessed with a great deal of size compared to other teams on the Island.
What they may lack in stature, however, they make up for in heart and desire.
“The guys have no fear at all,” Brown says. “They know part of our game is getting to the free throw line, so they take some hits inside.”
His team is now well into its 2014-15 season – they’re 1-1 in AAAA Tier 1 city league play and have one tournament under their belt – and is taking shape nicely, the coach says. Without a true post player to pass to under the basket, the team focuses more on quick ball movement and taking advantage of openings, he adds.
“We have five out and we can pretty much all handle the ball. We’re a strongly guard-oriented offence and all of them dribble well.”
Belmont was in a “rebuilding situation” last year after a couple of successful seasons, Brown says. This year the team has four returnees, including Grade 12s Jack Wenstob at guard, Tobias Hayward (guard/wing) and Lucas Longstaff (forward). Forward Luke Baloran, who played for the Bulldogs as a Grade 10 last season, is the other and epitomizes the team’s hard-nosed style of play.
Leading the newcomers is Nathan Zaragoza, a nimble, slick-shooting point guard with tons of energy. He led all scorers with 21 points in Belmont’s 62-48 road win over the Rams at Mount Doug on Tuesday.
Baloran and Wenstob chipped in with 14 and 11 points, respectively, for Belmont. The visitors trailed 24-17 at one point in the second quarter, then got rolling, closing out the half with a 16-4 run.
Brown said the team was experimenting with a new defence in the game, featuring a full-court press much of the time.
Looking forward, he knows there are tough games ahead. He acknowledges that all roads run through Oak Bay, both locally and on the Island, although the Cowichan Thunderbirds are “a huge team,” he says.
The Bulldogs actually led the Bays at halftime of their Dec. 2 contest at Belmont before fading in an 85-58 loss. The teams go head to head again next Thursday at Oak Bay.
Brown, in his sixth season guiding the Bulldogs, says he’s “fairly optimistic” his team can be in the hunt for one of the two provincials berths up for grabs when the Island AAAA championships happen at Mount Doug next February.
“We are small, but I think it’ll be a pretty good season. The kids want it and they’re in the gym regularly working on it,” he says, adding that he looks forward to them being the surprise team of the year on the Island and breaking through to the B.C championships.
“I do think they have it in them to be one of those teams.”
The Bulldogs head to North Vancouver this weekend for the North Shore Invitational tournament.