As the fourth seed from the North Region and going up against the 28-1 North Idaho Cardinals in the first round of the NWAC Championship, it was hard to imagine the Bellevue College Men’s Basketball team would progress through the bracket at all, let alone win the whole thing. Yet here we are, looking back on the miraculous run that had the Bulldogs stand atop the entire Northwest Athletic Conference as champions.
It started against North Idaho, perhaps one of the favorites to win it all. The Bulldogs were down five at halftime, and the two teams continued to trade blow for blow throughout the second half. It wasn’t until there were less than seven minutes on the clock that a Prophet Johnson three-pointer would put Bellevue up 55-54 and give them the momentum they needed to clutch out a 63-60 upset win to advance in the tournament.
Tacoma took home their own upset win from the first round, but their storybook run ended abruptly at the hand of the most explosive offensive performance of the tournament, as Bellevue would wallop the Titans 94-79. Johnson again led the scoring efforts with 30, but two other Bulldogs would put up 20 points themselves – Bishop Tosi and Owen Moriarty.
If one-fourth seed making it to the final four was strange enough, here they were opposite Columbia Basin, representing the fourth seed out of the East and amidst their own miracle. They couldn’t withstand the heat, however, as Bellevue would put up 40 points in the first half and use that 13-point lead to cruise to a 75-70 victory behind four double-digit scoring efforts from the Bulldog offense.
All stories have to feature a climactic battle, and here it was at the summit, with Bellevue staring down their division rival Everett Trojans, who had beaten the Bulldogs in both of their prior matchups. Seemingly having taken those losses personally, they brought the hammer down on Everett, boasting a 37-25 lead at halftime and outscoring the Trojans again in the second half, leading to an easy 85-71 victory and taking home the trophy.
Having won their first championship since 1993, Johnson got to take home the highest honors in the form of the tournament MVP, averaging 20 points and 8.2 rebounds over the four games. The “Most Inspirational” award of the tournament went to Bellevue’s Aydan Janssan, who participated in Bellevue’s defeat at the hands of Yakima Valley in last year’s tournament. Tosi left his mark as well, appearing on the All-Tournament First Team. Furthermore, Moriarty appeared in the All-Tournament Second Team alongside Sayerr Senghore.
There is no sweeter end to a basketball season than to be crowned the champion, and it’s a result that Bulldog fans will be talking about for years to come. Coach Donald Brady gets to celebrate his recognition as the NWAC Coach of the Year, and hopefully, we will continue to see the fruits of his labor in 2024.