When the game was on the line, the Bellarmine Prep Lions looked to sophomore guard Malachi Flynn.
He answered the call, several times.
Flynn scored 20 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with less than a minute to go, and a jumper on the next possession, and Bellarmine held off Gig Harbor, 55-51, in front of a packed Gig Harbor gym Friday night.
“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.
Gig Harbor had one last shot, down by three with 14.5 seconds remaining, but sophomore guard Sam Gagliardi’s 3-pointer rimmed out.
Tides head coach Billy Landram said the play to give Gagliardi an open look worked perfectly, but the shot didn’t fall.
Gagliardi scored 18 points to lead Gig Harbor and had the hot hand, making him an 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 has provided a spark off the bench 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 asked. “I think his case has been made.”
Flynn said Bellarmine embraces 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.”
Lions head coach Bernie Salazar praised the sophomore’s cool demeanor.
“He made a lot of clutch shots,” Salazar said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Landram said the game came down to who made shots at the end.
“I thought it was two good teams playing really hard, and (Bellarmine) made the shots with two minutes to go, and that’s why they won,” Landram said.
Gig Harbor (9-10 overall, 6-5 league) fed off the crowd’s energy.
“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 Bellarmine (9-9 overall, 5-5 league) the season sweep against their rivals from across the Narrows bridges.
“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,” he said. “It’s all getting us ready for playoff basketball.”Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.