Lions win overtime thriller for title

After doing all of his damage inside the paint against Olympia, Bellarmine Prep center Lucas Meikle hit his biggest shot of the game from beyond the arc. Trailing 48-45 with three seconds left, Meikle drained a three-pointer to send the game to overtime, and the Lions topped the Bears 59-54 in the extra period on Feb. 4 to win their first back-to-back league titles in 45 years.

“This time of year you just find ways to win,” said Bellarmine Prep head coach Bernie Salazar. “Sometimes it’s this way, sometimes it’s that way. You just have to find a way.”

Down 45-39 with just over a minute remaining, Isaiah Flynn nailed two three-pointers in 20 seconds to pull the Lions within 47-45 with 53 seconds left. Meikle’s game-tying trey then came after Flynn and Carson Hollyoak’s three-pointers were off target earlier in the possession. But Sefo Liufau corralled Hollyoak’s miss and dished it to Meikle in the corner in front of the Lions bench, and the senior drilled it – and was fouled. Despite missing the potential game-winning free throw, the Lions had stolen the momentum heading into overtime.

“I felt the release was awesome,” said Meikle, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “It just went in. That guy fell on top of me, and I made it. It was awesome. I was excited.”

Hollyoak came up big for the Lions in overtime, hitting a three-pointer to make it 51-48 with three minutes left, dishing to Flynn for an easy layup on the next possession and then collecting a steal on Olympia’s ensuing possession. Meikle added two free throws to make it 55-48 with 47 seconds left, essentially sealing it for the Lions.

Olympia had gotten off to a hot start in the game, jumping out to an 18-10 lead midway through the second quarter. But Mar’kese Jackson provided a spark off the bench for the Lions, getting a steal and a layup and later nailing a three-pointer to help cut it to 22-19 at the half.

The third quarter was back and forth, as Flynn’s three-pointer gave the Lions a 30-28 lead with two minutes left in the period before Olympia tied it 32-32 on a goaltend heading into the fourth. The Bears shot out to a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Meikle answered with a driving jumper after being fouled. He converted the resulting free throw to cut it to 42-39, but the Lions were then held scoreless for three minutes as the Bears again to a six-point advantage. That’s when Flynn hit the first of his clutch threes, leading to the late heroics.

“We are mainly a senior team,” Meikle said. “We have a lot of experience, so we didn’t let that (deficit) rattle us. We knew what the stakes were, so we weren’t going to give up on anything. We just kept on fighting and played until the last buzzer.”

Flynn added 18 points and Jackson had nine points and four steals for the Lions. Michael Naipo had 11 points for Olympia, while Brendan Leonard added 10 points for the Bears.

By Jeremy Helling

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