When the game was on the line, Bellarmine looked to sophomore guard Malachi Flynn. He answered the call, several times. Flynn led the team with 20 points on the night, hitting a three with under a minute to go to give the Lions a 50-47 lead, and hitting a jumper on the next possession to give Bellarmine a 52-48 lead. The Tides had one last shot, down by three with 14.5 seconds on the clock, but sophomore guard Sam Gagliardi's three rimmed out and the Lions went on to win 55-51 in front of a packed Gig Harbor gym.
“In the first half, my shots weren't falling, but I knew they would fall in the second half so I kept shooting and they went down,” Flynn said.
Flynn said the team embraces big crowds and hostile environments.
“We like playing in a big crowd,” he said. “We like when the fans come out. We just stayed focused on our gameplan.”
Bellarmine head coach Bernie Salazar praised the sophomore's cool demeanor and clutch shot making.
“He made a lot of clutch shots,” Salazar said. “I'm very proud of him.”
Tides' head coach Billy Landram said the play to give Gagliardi an open three worked perfectly, but the shot just didn't fall. Gagliardi led the Tides with 18 points and had the hot hand, making him the ideal candidate for the big shot.
“We just took one of our regular set plays, and kind of just ad-libbed a little bit because we had to throw it inbounds,” Landram said. “It worked perfectly, we got a wide open three. He was on fire the first half, so that's who we wanted to shoot the ball.”
Gagliardi, who currently comes off the bench, has been a spark for Tides at several points this season and is making a strong case for increased playing time. He played most of the game on Friday night.
“How many minutes did he play?” Landram said. “I think his case has been made.”
Landram said the game came down to who made shots at the end, and on Friday, it was Bellarmine.
“I thought it was two good teams playing really hard and they made the shots with two minutes to go and that's why they won,” Landram said.
The students were out in full force and the Tides fed off the crowd's energy the entire game.
“It (the crowd) was great,” Landram said. “Our kids are hurting right now on senior night and all, but it's what it should be like.”
The win gave the Lions a season sweep over their rivals across the bridge.
“It's a lot of fun to play in this atmosphere,” Salazar said. “It's always fun to play in front of a lot of people. The Gig Harbor fans were great, there was a lot of support for their team. Our fans were great. I thought at first, maybe it bothered us a little bit but as time went on, we got more used to it and it was good. It's great, it's all getting us ready for playoff basketball.”
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.