After an extended hiatus due to a scheduled break and an unexpected shift in the weather, the Bellevue College men’s and women’s basketball teams played their first games since Jan. 30 on Feb. 14.
The Valentine’s Day return kicked off with the women’s team clashing in a pivotal North Region matchup. Coming in, Bellevue and Whatcom were both tightly intertwined in the playoff hunt as six of the top eight teams in the North were and are separated by 1.5 games at most. Of course, only four of these teams can make the playoffs by the end of the season, so both Bellevue and Whatcom had something to prove.
The Bulldogs were coming in as rank 11 of 34 NWAC teams according to the RPI ratings on Feb. 7, whereas Whatcom came in at number 18. A minute and a half into the game, Bellevue struck first blood with a three-point bucket from Dakota Laut. Laut made a second shot less than a minute later to put Bellevue up 5-0, and the momentum remained in their favor for the first half. After 20 minutes of regulation play, Whatcom had not yet possessed the lead and the score was in Bellevue’s favor 29-18.
The fun stopped there for the Bulldogs, as they would only score nine more in the third quarter, allowing Whatcom to tie the game at 38 going into the fourth. When Elisa Kooiman made a jump shot to put Whatcom up 41-38, they would ride their own momentum to a narrow 58-52 victory. Amanda Luckett led Bellevue in scoring with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Natalie Amos also put up good numbers, scoring 14 points with nine rebounds and a game-high five steals.
In wake of the defeat, Bellevue’s women’s team still tied Peninsula for second in the North, just half a game ahead of Whatcom. However, there was still basketball to be played as the men took to the court. The RPI ratings for this game were closer, as Bellevue was rank 16 to Whatcom’s 17 in the NWAC. This game also had playoff implications as the third through sixth seeds in the North Region were just half a game apart, with Bellevue and Whatcom making up two of those spots.
The game started well for Bellevue as they went up 10-3 in the first three minutes of the game. Whatcom would stabilize and bring the score to 15-14 in their favor, which gave a decent understanding as to how the first half went. After several lead changes despite decent leads by the Bulldogs throughout, Bellevue would end the first half in control 46-38. This was about as close as the game would get, as Bellevue slowly and methodically extended their lead throughout the second half. Eventually the game came to an end, and Bellevue would be victorious by a score of 96-73.
Five Bulldogs finished the game with double-digit points. Curtis Walker led the team in points, rebounds and steals with 18, eight and three respectively. Malik Sanchez scored 16 points with six rebounds and six assists, while TJ Jlan scored 13 points and led the team with seven assists. Tijohn Rodde and Emanuel Siale both scored 11 points from the bench and it was through everybody’s efforts combined that they were able to solidly outclass Whatcom.
The standings in the North now have Bellevue tied for third with Peninsula, just half a game ahead of Whatcom and Skagit Valley. With time winding down in the season, every game is just that much more important.