Despite watching his team lose the final of the Belmont Invitational senior boys basketball tournament 64-63 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer, Bulldogs coach Kevin Brown was having a hard time sounding frustrated.
The fact his team otherwise led Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Dolphins the whole way in the Dec. 30 game showed him that his players have come a long way in a relatively short time this season, he said.
“We did lose, but that was definitely their best game of the year,” Brown said of the Bulldogs, who lost by about 25 to the Dolphins in their previous meeting.
“We definitely feel like we’re coming together as a team and a unit. I know we lost, but we were beating a good team the whole game. We just fell apart a little bit at the end.”
Down 52-41 to start the fourth quarter, Dover Bay put on the press and put together a 16-5 run to make it 61-58 Belmont with less than three minutes to play. The Bulldogs’ big man in the middle, Dontae Bull, pulled down his own rebound and tossed in a one-handed jumper to make it 63-58 with 1:44 to go, but Ryan Macdonald nailed a three for the Dolphins with 40 seconds left to keep it close.
Having played a largely foul-free second half, Belmont hadn’t put Dover Bay into a bonus situation. So consecutive Bulldogs fouls, one at half-court with five seconds left, and a later one under the basket in a non-shooting situation, left the Dolphins with an inbounds pass at the baseline with around three seconds to go.
The ball came out on the left flank to defensive specialist Miles Huynh, who cooly sank the trey to give his team the win.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but it was nice that we finally made a shot when it mattered,” said Dover Bay coach Carson Williams. “We missed a lot of layups and some open shots (earlier), but part of that was definitely Belmont’s defence, they played very well defensively.”
Hurting the Bulldogs in the final minutes was an injury to point guard Perry Panganiban, who rolled an ankle and left the game.
It quite likely won’t be the last time the two squads will meet this season. Dover Bay hosts the six-team AAAA Island championships in late February. Belmont is one of just four AAAA teams on the south Island – Oak Bay, Claremont and Spectrum are the others – three of which will qualify for Islands.
In last week’s tourney final, Jackson Leeder led the Bulldogs with 23 points while Ryan Backhouse added 20, including four three-pointers.
High school basketball newcomer Bull, whose sports forte has been football, chipped in 17 points and was a force inside, a role he’s been taking on with more enthusiasm game by game, Brown said.
“He gets better every game. He’s rebounding and changing shots and now he’s scoring 20 a game. I can’t say enough about him,” the coach said. “He’s coachable, a very positive guy with the team and he has smart shot selection.”
Brown said a couple of veteran Bulldogs appeared to emerge from the early season funk at the tournament, including Luke Baloran. He finished with 18 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter, as Belmont came from behind to beat the Brittannia Bruins of Vancouver 68-53 in pool play.
“Luke Baloran won that game for us,” Brown said, adding that Bull, who scored 20, was again a factor in the paint.
Belmont trailed 31-21 at the half to the small, but quick Bruins. After slowing the pace down in the third quarter, “which kind of goes against my philosophy,” Brown said, the Bulldogs caught up then used a 14-0 end-of-game run to pull away. Leeder, the team’s Mr. Reliable, led Belmont with 22 in the game.
In their tournament opener, the Bulldogs were firing on all cylinders as they beat the Gulf Islands Scorpions 97-72. Bull led the winners with 27, followed by another emerging veteran, Ryan Backhouse, with 25 and Leeder with 23.
Thomas Weatherby had a game high 31 points to lead the Scorpions, while teammate Josh Brown added 25.
The Bulldogs, who sit 0-2 in city Division 1 play, travel to St. Michaels University School for a league game this Friday (Jan. 8).
Bulldogs struck by Thunder in junior boys final
The host Bulldogs made it close in the second half, but ultimately lost 61-47 to the Panorama Ridge Thunder in the championship game of last week’s Belmont junior invitational basketball tournament.
Helped by the three-point shooting of Julius Kennedy, who led his team with 23 points, the Bulldogs cut the Surrey team’s 11-point lead to three, 46-43, midway through the fourth quarter.
But the host team gave up a couple of key buckets shortly afterward and weren’t able to regain the momentum. With the Bulldogs needing to foul late to try winning the ball back with no damage, the Thunder sunk a handful of shots from the line to seal the victory.
The visitors led by a slim 26-24 margin at halftime, but outscored Belmont 12-3 in the third period to take control. Isaac Ickovich chipped in 16 points for the Bulldogs, including eight in the final quarter, while teammate Nishad Tarak finished with eight points.
Gurshael Jessel led the Bruins with 16 points.
Belmont advanced to the final with a 59-43 win over the Brittannia Bruins from Vancouver. The Bulldogs led 27-21 at the half and extended their lead to 37-23 before a 12-2 run by the Bruins pulled them within four.
With the visitors in foul trouble later, the Bulldogs used free throws to help keep Brittannia at bay. The locals hit 10 of 13 from the line in the fourth quarter. Five of those came from Tarak, who had 16 points in the game. Ickovich topped the list with 19, while Lucas Cage added 10.
The Bulldogs opened the tournament with a 67-46 win over Dover Bay from Nanaimo. Kennedy led the attack with 16 points, followed by Ickovich with 15, Max Leeder with 11 and Tyler Hardy with 10.