SFX Sports Centre – The Bellerose Bulldogs are on the rebound in high school men’s basketball.
The Bulldogs are poised to rattle the rim with a stronger and skilled lineup than last season’s 2-13 division one team in the metro Edmonton league.
“This year we have a lot of potential. The Grade 10s are now Grade 11s and they have that experience from last year and they’re more confident this year. It’s going to help us out with our record and bringing Bellerose basketball around as a program,” said Darryl Broderick, a flashy Grade 12 point guard, after the Bulldogs tipped-off the season at the 18th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School.
Last season marked the first time the Bulldogs won a league game since going 4-8 in the 2011/12 city conference, which is now division two.
“Last year was very tough because it’s tough to change the culture. It’s tough to change the mindset of a community or an environment and basketball is just not something that Bellerose is known for,” said Don Phillips, who rejoined the Bulldogs as the bench boss after leading the team to the 2006 city conference final in his St. Albert high school coaching debut.
“In 05/06 I thought that I did a good job instilling that culture but I also had a group of phenoms that helped me change the culture. Then I left, the coaching changed and you know the rest.”
The Bulldogs will stay the course in division one against some of the very best teams in Alberta.
“That’s where we want to be. There is no way we can build a program into a provincial contender playing division two,” said Phillips, who coached the Paul Kane Blues to consecutive premier (division one) championships and back-to-back trips to the 2007 and 2008 4A Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association final, culminating with Paul Kane’s first provincial basketball banner in school history in 2008.
The Bulldogs have six players back from the 14th-place lineup that lost nine straight before their breakthrough 73-64 result against the Edmonton Christian Lions (1-14) Feb. 9 and then ended the season with an 83-81 decision against the J. Percy Page Panthers (1-14) Feb. 25. Both wins were celebrated in the Bellerose gym.
“Our goal this year is to have fun playing basketball at a top level and being competitive,” said Broderick, a second-year Bulldog after playing basketball and football at Paul Kane in 2013/14. “We’ve got a good coach and we’ve just got to work on a few things.”
Major emphasis is on defence and “bringing out the scoring,” according to Broderick, the go-to guy on offence.
“My role is knocking down open shots and getting my team going as a point guard and hitting a few threes here and there.”
Broderick drained 23 points, including four three-pointers, in Thursday’s 77-57 loss to the Spruce Grove Panthers, the 2015 division two champions, to kick off the tournament.
The second game of the day was 72-68 over the M. E. Lazerte Voyageurs in the consolation bracket. Scoring info was unavailable at press time.
Depending on Friday’s score, the Bulldogs will hoop it up today at the SFX Spots Centre for ninth place in the consolation final at 2 p.m. against the Lions or Luther College of Regina, or for 11th place.
Visit www.stfrancisxavier.ecsd.net or Fxramsmensbball on Facebook for the tournament draw and results.
The Bulldogs showed flashes of promise in the lid-lifter despite never holding the lead while trailing 24-9 at the end of the first quarter, 38-28 at halftime and 53-42 after three quarters.
“It was the first game and everyone wasn’t really playing their best,” Broderick said. “The first quarter we weren’t knocking down shots and in the second quarter we started hitting more threes and just getting into the flow of the game and playing good basketball.”
It was 17-1 when Garrett Gerald sank the team’s first field goal with 2:51 left in the 10-minute opening period.
Three times the Bulldogs clawed their way back to trim the deficit to 10 points in the second quarter as Broderick tacked up nine points.
The second three by Broderick in the fourth quarter pulled the Bulldogs to within seven at 56-49.
With under seven minutes to play, Brandon Thiessen intercepted the ball and fired it across the floor to Broderick sprinting down the court and his pass was deposited by Emmit Gallant to make it a five-point spread.
The Panthers replied with a point run of four free throws and two field goals before Jake MacKay drained a shot with about five minutes to go.
“We were pushing the ball but we had to go small and we can’t win a lot of games playing small ball, not with this group. We need to get our bigs to rebound more and helping us on defence,” Phillips said.
It was 66-53 when starter Ben Jones-Petrecca, a six-foot-three Bulldog, suffered a lower-body injury and had to be helped off the floor.
Broderick, 17, finished the second half with 12 points. Gallant, a high-energy Grade 11 guard, had nine points overall and the six-foot-three MacKay added eight.
“I thought it was a very winnable game but we didn’t execute anything,” Phillips said. “We did show some grit in the third quarter and early in the fourth. I think we got it to about seven and then we had some miscues on defence.
“Then, when Ben got hurt, I thought all the air just went out of us.”
Asked what the team’s strength is this season, Phillips replied it was defence. “But this game wasn’t a very good indicator of the type of defensive team I hope we can be,” said the Bellerose teacher and former head coach of the NAIT Ooks.