By James Storbeck.
Coming into Wednesday night’s game, it was clearly going to be a big one for the Bellevue Community College Bulldogs versus the Olympic College Rangers. With the Rangers half a game behind them, and a playoff spot on the line, the Bulldogs were able to pull through in a thrilling 68-64 victory.
Catching up to BCC Head Coach Jeremy Eggers before the game, he said, “We have to play a really good game to win. They’re a good team, they’re athletic, they’re quick, and we have to play well to win, so hopefully we can do that. We haven’t lost since we last played them, and we’re undefeated at home, so we got some pride here, and we want to keep that undefeated streak at home alive.”
The game itself was played on a practically neutral territory, as Olympic brought with them a surprisingly large and raucous fan base that was vocal throughout the game, creating an intense atmosphere.
Right from tip off, the game was an exciting one to watch, both teams clearly playing with purpose, with Bellevue having the edge early on.
BCC’s game was exposed early. The Bulldogs’ poor free throw shooting saw them going two for eight on the half, missing their first five attempts from the line. “We haven’t been very good [at free throws] all year long, so we have to get better,” said Eggers, addressing the issue.
The Rangers put on a press with 14:01 left in the first half which seemed to throw off the Bulldogs’ game plan, their passing becoming indecisive and lacking belief. This, in addition to thunderous dunks by Olympic forward Tysaih Curry on back-to-back possessions, had momentum swinging clearly in the Ranger favor.
As the half went on, however, it was the Bulldogs’ game plan that seemed to emerge, as they were able to force the ball inside, often successfully, jumping out to a 14-point lead. This was the biggest of the game, with a little over four minutes remaining in the first half.
Although shut out from that point on for the half, BCC was able to maintain a 10 point lead with stonewall defense led by emphatic blocks from Bulldog forward Josiah Brensdal, ending the half ahead 34-24.
At the half, the Bulldogs once again came out of the locker room with a purpose. “It’s exactly what we thought it was going to be,” said Eggers. “We have to come to play. We didn’t do some things offensively that we wanted to. We’re fortunate to be up ten. We have to do a better job of rebounding and we have to execute offensively.”
However, as the second half began, executing offensively proved to be a problem for the Bulldogs. A set of quick threes by the Rangers, coupled with poor offensive decisions by BCC, set the stage for a 18-6 run by Olympic to tie the game at 42 with 12:11 remaining in the game.
The run seemed to put panic into the minds of the BCC team, as every player that touched the ball seemed uncertain where to go with it, leading to sloppy ball handling and turnovers.
A clutch player emerged in BCC guard Sam Cartmell, who seemed to hit a key three every time the Bulldogs were in need of one. With 4:28 remaining, and the game tied, Cartmell hit a three to give the Bulldogs the lead. “It was a tough game, and the type of game you want to play in,” said Cartmell. “I just shot it and I didn’t really think about it,” the modest player said.
“Not thinking about it” seemed to work for Cartmell, who lead all scorers with 20 points, including shooting 71 percent from beyond the arc, going five for seven.
With the game winding down, Bellevue and Olympic traded buckets and leads, right up until Cartmell hit another three point shot with 1:26 remaining to put the Bulldogs up by two, and giving them the final lead in the game.
Coming out of the locker room, it was all smiles from coach Eggers. “It was the kind of game we thought it was going to be, and we did what we needed to do down the stretch. [Cartmell] hit some big shots, and we got some defensive stops. We defended and rebounded the last three possessions the way we needed to. Unfortunately, you play forty minutes to have it come down to three possessions, but it was the right possessions.”
The win extends their lead over Olympic in the standings to a game and a half. Skagit Valley has now passed Olympic, and now trails Bellevue by half a game. By the time this issue comes out, Bellevue will have played Skagit Valley on Saturday, with first place on the line.
By James Storbeck.