Bulldogs slam-dunk Blues
Bellerose Bulldogs are 8-0 after handing the Paul Kane Blues their first loss of the season in metro Edmonton division two pool B men's basketball
Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017 06:00 am
The Bellerose Bulldogs are gaining ground on the first senior men’s basketball championship in school history after passing the Paul Kane Blues in the race to the finish line.
The eighth win without a loss for the Bulldogs was Monday’s momentous 76-61 achievement against the Blues.
“Obviously it means a lot especially going into playoffs. It gives us a lot of momentum and hopefully we can carry that momentum forward and finish it off with a championship,” said Jake MacKay, a Grade 12 Bulldog who lit up the Blues for a game-high 22 points.
First place in pool B was also on the line between the only undefeated division two teams in the metro Edmonton league.
“This win means everything to us going into the playoffs,” said captain Ben Jones-Petrecca of the Bulldogs securing a first-round bye with one game left in league play. “It just makes the playoffs a little bit easier.”
The Blues were winners of six straight before the Bulldogs stopped them in their tracks.
“This is a wakeup call for us,” said Russell Dixon, the leading scorer for the Blues with 16 points. “We can take a lot from this game to improve ours.”
The hype surrounding the clash of St. Albert rivals was huge, especially after last year’s unrestrained division one encounter that ended with the Bulldogs on top 83-77 for their lone league win of the season.
“It’s the Battle of St. Albert so it means a lot to everyone on the team,” MacKay said. “Obviously Paul Kane fought hard and we fought hard and in the end we pulled through.”
The rematch was also staged at Bellerose Composite High School and similar to last year the gym was packed with spectators to witness the spectacle.
“This is the biggest game we’ve had all year so it was a way bigger turnout and it does give you energy when you’ve got fans cheering for you. It feels good hitting a big shot or a having a big block or a big rebound,” MacKay said.
“It adds a different dynamic to the game when we’ve got a crowd,” Jones-Petrecca added. “When the crowd is yelling at you and they’re in your favour that can work for you but if they’re against you and you let them bring you down then you’re not going to be able to do anything. It’s like you’re playing against the crowd so you’ve got to quiet them down.”
As the action heated up so did the combustible energy from the stands that engulfed both teams.
Even the Bellerose and Paul Kane mascots were hugging it out as the drama unfolded.
“I love feeding off the crowd, even when they’re talking a little (smack) to you from the sideline. It’s lots of fun,” Russell said.
Backed by the roar of Bulldogs Nation, the Bellerose hoopsters overpowered the Blues with a robust performance at both ends of the court.
“We didn’t think we were going to lose so we just went out and did what we were supposed to do,” Jones-Petrecca said. “We didn’t give them anything too easy and we just kept them out of it once we got on top.”
The biggest basket of the night, according to MacKay, was the three-pointer by Jones-Petrecca seconds after the Bulldogs grabbed the opening tip off. It was the first of seven consecutive points by the six-foot-four Grade 12 guard/forward before Dawson Murray slotted a three-ball to trigger a 9-4 run to end the first quarter and the Blues in front 17-11.
“When Ben hit that big three to kick us off it really gave us momentum to carry forward with in the game. Everyone followed him after that and we started clicking as a unit,” MacKay said. “Our team tends to play to our level and today we really played against the game and not our level so we really brought everything we could against Paul Kane and they did the same.
“It was a very good game overall. It was well executed by our team and the Blues.”
Leading up to quarter time, Daniel Ward of the Bulldogs objected to Keaton Zachykowsky diving on top of a pile of players sprawled on the floor wrestling for the ball. No foul was called but a few seconds after the game resumed an official halted play to have a quick chat with a boisterous female Bellerose fan sitting near courtside who was voicing her displeasure over the non-call.
In the second quarter, a three-ball by Austin Thiessen 2:35 into the period put the Bulldogs up 22-13.
The Bulldogs also rose to the challenge defensively with Gurshan Badesha’s rejection of Zaychkowsky’s shot with a mighty slap at the ball and less than a minute later the six-foot-five Bulldog blocked another Zaychkowsky offering to the delight of the Bellerose faithful.
MacKay, 18, tacked up nine points in the quarter as the Bulldogs closed out the first half with a commanding 33-19 lead.
The six-foot-five forward was in a groove offensively throughout the contest.
“I tend to shoot more than drive and tonight I just found my rhythm early driving and I got a lot of easy layups to the basket,” MacKay said.
The Bulldogs threatened to run away from the Blues early in the third quarter but Paul Kane chipped away at the 16-point deficit on the strength of a series of three-pointers by Russell, his first of three in the second half, Logan Buchanan and Brant Curtis to trail by eight with under five minutes.
“We had a run on them early in the third and we thought we could grab them,” Russell said of the team’s most productive stretch of offence against the Bulldogs.
“We played good on defence, we just didn’t hit enough shots to beat them. We got looks offensively but our shots weren’t falling and theirs were,” Russell added. “We’ve had games where we’ve put up 80 points and we just couldn’t quite get that done tonight.”
Devon Dorn contributed 13 points to the cause and Curtis added 11, including three three-pointers.
The Bulldogs recovered to end the quarter with a sizable 58-40 advantage as Hudson Olson poured in 11 points, including two threes, in the 10-minute period.
Olson and Jones-Petrecca pumped in 17 points apiece and were among five Bulldogs to tack up eight three-points in total.
“We shared the ball very well as a team,” MacKay said. “Overall it was our persistence that did it for us. When we’re missing shots it doesn’t last. Everyone keeps shooting. If you miss a shot you make the next one and that’s what we tell each other all the time.”
Things got interesting in the fourth quarter when Jones-Petrecca flung Russell to the floor while battling for a rebound around the Paul Kane basket with 7:49 remaining. Russell wasn’t amused and directed his displeasure at Jones-Petrecca in a nose-to-nose exchange. The two combatants continued to exchange pleasantries after Russell sank two free throws following the incident to put the score at 60-44.
“I guess I grabbed hold of him and just pushed him down a little too hard,” said Jones-Petrecca, who celebrated his second three-pointer of the game with vigour at the expense of the Grade 10 shooting guard to make it 68-50 with 5:37 to play.
Russell, 15, shrugged of the disagreement with Jones-Petrecca with a smile on his face.
“It’s part of the game. It is what it is,” said the standout quarterback for the junior Blues who participated in last month’s International Bowl VIII in Arlington, Texas with U16 Team Alberta.
Up next for the Blues before the playoffs are games against the Austin O’Brien Crusaders (3-4) Tuesday at home and the Ardrossan Bisons (4-3) Wednesday on the road. Start times are 5 p.m.
The last game for the Bulldogs is Tuesday against the Archbishop Jordan Scots (2-4) at 5 p.m. in Sherwood Park.
The Bulldogs and Blues could potentially cross paths again in the March 4 final at 7 p.m. at Memorial Composite High School in Stony Plain.
“I would love to meet them in the final and I think it would be the same thing again,” Jones-Petrecca, 17.