By James Storbeck.
The Bellevue CC Bulldogs surrendered a come-from-behind win to the Whatcom CC Orcas on Wednesday night, 61-55.
Coming into the game, the Bulldogs had nothing left to play for. Having secured the top spot in the NWAACC Northern Division, they could take it easy going into the tournament. But Coach Jeremy Eggers had no intention of lying down. “We have to play loose and free, ” he said. “Right now we’re on a nine game win streak, and we want to go into the tournament on an eleven game win streak…We have a couple guys banged up a bit that we might let get a little rest down the stretch.”
On top of playing for a playoff spot, it was also Sophomore Night for Whatcom, so they had plenty of motivation to bring their A-game.
At the start of the game, a whirlwind snowstorm raged on in Bellingham, which should have been a sign of things to come. As the game began, however, the action on the court was anything but a flurry.
The Bulldogs came out with a tight man-to-man defense, causing a few traveling violations by the Orcas. At the tempo the game was played, and with as much purpose as both teams appeared to be playing with, it was surprising what a low scoring affair it was.
Bellevue and Whatcom traded buckets for the better part of the half, with the biggest lead of the half, and the game, coming with around 11 minutes to play, with the Bulldogs up 21—12.
From there, however, the Bulldogs managed only one point over the next seven minutes, allowing the Orcas to pull within a single point with a little under four minutes remaining in the half.
As the half dwindled, with the Bulldogs down by a point, an Orca blatantly tripped Bulldog forward Rukari Austin, earning himself a technical foul. Austin was able to hit one of the ensuing free throws, and then guard Pete Harris was able to hit a three to send the Bulldogs into halftime with the lead.
“We started out great, shared the ball and spread them out, made them defend us, took some great shots, attacked the basket when we had the opportunities, played good defense and played exactly what the game plan was, ” said Eggers at the half. “And then we got tired, so we brought in some subs. Around the eight minute mark, we stopped taking good shots and started forcing some things offensively, and then defensively we let down too,”
Starting the second half, the Bulldogs looked to bring back the suffocating defense they started the game with, and they did it well, not allowing a Whatcom basket until five minutes into the half.
After that, however, the Orcas came back and tied the game with 8:19 remaining, before taking the lead which they didn’t surrender.
Throughout the game, the Bulldogs shot poorly from the free throw line as they have in previous games, missing critical chances to put points on the board, making only 5 of 17 attempts from the line.
As the game wound down, with the Bulldogs down by a point, forward Blake Pankow was able to come up with a key steal with 52 seconds remaining in the game. A foul by the Orcas put the Bulldogs at the line with 32 seconds remaining.
However, the Bulldogs poor performance from the line continued, as they missed the free throw, and fouled the Orcas with 29 seconds remaining, putting them at the line. They were able to make the first free throw, and then rebound and put back the second, giving them the victory, and securing a Whatcom playoff spot.
By the printing of this issue, BCC will have played their final game against Seattle on Saturday. From there, they will go on to the NWAACC tournament, where they play their first game against Columbia Basin Thursday at 2 p.m.
By James Storbeck.