Things looked bleak for the Bellevue Wolverines boys basketball team in the early stages of the first quarter of the KingCo 3A championship game against the Juanita Rebels.
Juanita started off the game with a quick 6-0 lead, behind two baskets from guard Darius Johnson and a bucket in the paint from Zach Miller.
The lead didn’t last long.
Bellevue outscored Juanita 30-16 to close out the first half, taking an eight-point lead at halftime. Bellevue’s stingy defense and efficient ball movement on offense propelled them to a 61-47 win in the KingCo 3A tournament championship game on Feb. 7 at Newport High School in Factoria. The Wolverines improved their overall record to 19-3 with the win while Juanita dropped to 12-10. The Wolverines, who have won the KingCo tournament nine times in the past 12 seasons, were thrilled to add another medal to the mantle.
“Every year it is special. That is the goal is to keep it going. Our goal every year is to win KingCo (regular season), win the KingCo tournament and get to state (tournament),” Bellevue head coach Chris O’Connor said. “We did it again. Now we got the other part of our goals, which is to get to state now.”
Bellevue consistently made the extra pass which created a bevy of high percentage shots in the paint against Juanita. Bellevue senior guard Spencer Birkeland, a crafty left-handed guard, believes team chemistry on the hardwood makes all the difference in the world for his squad.
“These guys are all my best friends. I have grown up playing with them,” Birkeland said.
O’Connor echoed Birkeland’s sentiment.
“The guys have been playing together for a long time. There is good unity because the kids have been on the court with each other since third or fourth grade. There is a lot of things out there that are just instinct because they have played together for so long. It is a fun group to coach. They are teachable and I would like to see them go out on a good note,” O’Connor said of squad.
A 6-0 deficit in the first few minutes of play wasn’t going to deter the tight-knit Wolverines roster.
“We were just going to stick to our game plan and not change anything. When we are moving the ball and getting stops, that is when we are at our best,” Birkeland said.
Bellevue junior Hunter Hanson scored a team-high 19 points in the win. Senior forward Andrew Kenny added 18 points and junior guard Jalen Love scored 12 points.