Malachi Flynn burst out of a raucous locker room, he and his Bellarmine Prep jersey drenched from both playing 32 minutes of basketball and someone turning the showers into sprinklers during a locker room celebration.
His father embraced him out on the court and his teammates nearly tackled him after Flynn scored 31 points in the Lions’ 66-58 victory Friday at Olympia to clinch their first 4A Narrows League title since winning it back-to-back in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
“It was crazy,” Flynn said.
Bellarmine Prep (15-3, 10-0 4A Narrows) has won 15 of its past 16 games since an 0-2 start to the season, and with Friday’s win takes a two-game lead on Olympia (15-3; 8-2) with two games to play, but has now beat the Bears twice.
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“It’s very difficult to win a league title with all the teams and coaches in our league — it’s really hard,” Bellarmine coach Bernie Salazar said. “It’s very much earned. It’s not given. You have to work really hard and you have to really sacrifice.
“Everybody is buying into their roles and I think what’s most important is they are really playing for each other and for our school.”
It was Flynn who scored eight consecutive points in the third quarter to turn what was a three-point Lions’ lead into a 52-39 lead just before the end of the period.
And it was Flynn who connected on a four-point play with about four minutes remaining to push the lead back to 10, and Flynn again who hit a fadeaway jumper after Olympia’s Liam Murphy ignited the crowd with a 3-pointer on the previous possession to cut the lead back to four points with 1:23 left.
“He’s a handle,” Olympia coach John Kiley said.
“He can do those things,” said a smiling Salazar — a frequent response from him about his senior point guard. “So you have to let him do those things.”
But to say it was all Flynn would be wrong. Not with Joey Bodoia (who scored 21 points) also hitting big shots such as the game-clinching one off a missed Bellarmine free throw in the final 30 seconds. Or Christian Moore (who finished with 10 points) and Peter Gray playing strong down low and every other player fulfilling their roles in securing the league title.
“I’d say we’ve grown most in our ability to play together and find each other,” Bodoia said. “Our chemistry has definitely gotten better. We’ve found a way to play with each other and we’ve gotten better.”
Hunter Sipe led Olympia with 12 points and Liam Murphy and Brett Thompson each added 10 points.
They kept this a back-and-forth game throughout — and this was a school that finished last in the league standings last season.
“I have a lot of respect for John Kiley and that whole Olympia basketball team,” Salazar said.
Only it was Bellarmine doing the celebrating.
“That’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Bodoia.