Bellarmine Prep girls basketball has a goal for the month as their regular season schedule enters the final stretch — no losses in January. So far, the Lions are on track, with five consecutive wins in the past two weeks. Bellarmine (11-5) opened the month with a nonleague win over Class 3A Pierce County League favorite Lincoln.
The Lions then picked up three convincing 4A South Puget Sound League wins over Graham-Kapowsin, South Kitsap and Puyallup. Friday night in Tacoma, they added another key victory over 4A SPSL North rival Sumner, rallying past the Spartans in the fourth quarter to secure a 54-47 win.
“It’s huge for us,” Bellarmine coach Chelle Miller said. “When we came back from our trip to Arizona, we told ourselves that we were going to have a no-loss January. That’s our goal. So, we’re still there.” Sumner (13-2), which advanced to the 4A championship game last winter in the Tacoma Dome, entered the evening without a loss in league play. The Spartans also bested Bellarmine, 62-57, in the first meeting between the two teams this season back in December.
This time, though, the Lions secured the win in a back-and-forth contest between two programs looking to make postseason runs. Bellarmine forward Taylor Teeple scored the first points in a game that had nine lead changes, and guard Kiara Stone added a pair of 3-pointers in the opening quarter for the Lions, but Sumner ended it on an 8-0 run on four baskets from guard Lainee Houillon to take a 15-12 lead. The Lions took it back midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer from Keiara Curtis, and a pair of baskets by Stone in the final 30 seconds of the half lifted Bellarmine to a six point lead at the break.
Sumner responded with a 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the third quarter, regaining the lead on a Olivia Collins 3-pointer, and added two more 3-pointers from Collins and Kylie Griffin to eventually take a 42-38 lead into the final eight minutes. Momentum shifted often throughout the contest, and neither team led by more than nine points. “We knew it was going to be that way,” Miller said. “They pushed the ball down the floor, they were really smart with the ball, they’re really well-coached. So, we knew they were going to be after us.”
The Spartans held a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter on a basket by Houillon with 6:42 to play, but the Lions held them scoreless on their next nine possessions, and didn’t allow another point until Houillon netted a free throw with 19.8 seconds to play. Bellarmine outscored Sumner, 16-5, in the final quarter to eventually close out the win. Forward Stella Wiggins gave the Lions the game’s final lead with 4:40 to play. Wiggins scored all six of her points in the final quarter, Teeple added four of her nine points in the fourth, and Bellarmine’s forwards consistently secured rebounds as the Lions pulled away late.
“They helped us a ton,” Miller said. “We’ve typically just been a guard-oriented team, but we knew down the stretch that our bigs would have to produce and they totally did.” Houillon led all scorers with 22 points for the Spartans, while Griffin added 10 and Collins had eight. Stone scored a team-high 18 points for Bellarmine, including 16 in the first half. Curtis added 15 points, including 10 in the second half and four free throws in the final 15 seconds. Sumner resumes its regular season schedule Monday afternoon at the ShoWare Center in Kent in a rematch of last year’s 4A state title game with defending champion Woodinville in the 2023 King Showcase. The Spartans then close their 4A SPSL schedule with four more league contests. Bellarmine also closes out the month with five more regular season games, including a nonleague meeting with Eastlake on Monday afternoon in Kent. The Lions then wrap up the regular season with league contests against Curtis, Olympia, South Kitsap and Puyallup. And their goal for January remains the same. “We’re just trying to stay on that path and just come together,” Stone said. “I feel like we’re just starting to click as a team, and hopefully we just keep on pushing throughout January.”
Lauren Smith, Sports Reporter for Tacoma News Tribune