The Belmont Bulldogs will be glad to get through their latest challenge, one that is seeing the senior boys basketball team battling more than just their opponents on the court.
With three games on the docket this week – two city league Tier 1 games and a home exhibition Friday (Jan. 6) against Cowichan – multiple members of the team were continuing to fight through bad chest colds.
Despite those illnesses dragging down their energy level, the host Bulldogs still managed to put up a good showing at the Belmont Invitational tournament.
Belmont won their first two games, then hung with Panorama Ridge of Surrey most of the way in the final last Friday before losing 73-64.
The Thunder, given honourable mention along with the Bulldogs in the last pre-Christmas B.C. AAAA rankings, boasted a “bigger and longer” lineup, one not necessarily built around a speed game, said Belmont coach Kevin Brown. Because of that, he added, “we didn’t get burned out” despite being hampered by sickness.
While the scorers in the final were unavailable, point guard Nathan Zaragosa and post Dante Bull led the Bulldogs attack. Belmont trailed most of the game but pulled to within five or six points a couple times in the second half.
Brown said he was quite worried going into the tournament with multiple players coming down sick. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs opened up a lead of abut 30 points in their Dec. 28 opener against Vancouver’s Brittannia and cruised to a 75-61 victory. Bull led the way with 34 points, while a tender Julius Kennedy, still recovering from a back injury, came off the bench to score 14, including for three-pointers.
The semifinal the following day saw Belmont score some key baskets in the dying minutes and squeak out a 73-71 win over Pitt Meadows. Two of those came in the form of layups from Grade 10 player Max Leeder, who got the slow-starting Bulldogs back into the game early with three threes off the bench and finished with 15 points.
“We were sick and slow and that played into their hands,” Brown said. “They’re not a super athletic team, just fundamentally sound and super well-coached.”
The powerfully built Bull, well-guarded by a similar-sized Pitt Meadows player, still managed to rack up 23 points, while Zaragosa chipped in eight.
The Bulldogs, who were scheduled to host Claremont on Tuesday night and travel to Parkland on Thursday in league play, have this weekend off from tournament action. They head to the mainland for the Pitt Meadows tournament Jan. 13 and 14.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs junior boys wound up fifth in the Belmont tournament with a final game loss to Mount Douglas. Belmont opened with a slim loss to Surrey’s Enver Creek, then beat Oak Bay before facing the Rams on the Friday.
Belmont was scheduled to return to league play at Reynolds on Thursday, after the Gazette print deadline.
Note: A previous story inaccurately referred to the Belmont Invitational tournament as the Bill Spotswood tournament, which is a Belmont girls tournament.