PORT ORCHARD — It wasn’t the prettiest way to hit a nice round number, but the Wolves came through for their head coach in the clutch, defeating Bellarmine Prep 36-30 on Thursday night to give John Callaghan his 300th career win.
Callaghan passed Bainbridge’s Tom Paski for fifth on the all-time West Sound boys basketball wins list in a 56-47 win over Emerald Ridge on Jan. 15, setting him up to get No. 300 at home with a one-win Lions team coming to town.
And while Callaghan hasn’t been outwardly focused on the milestone number, the players, fans and his assistant coaches were certainly prepared for the big night. A commemorative game ball awaited him at center court following the game, which was followed by a water shower from the players downstairs in the locker room.
“It was pretty much the same message as every game,” said junior forward Kyler Kelso. “But everyone knew in the back of their head it was a big game.”
It was Kelso’s clutch 3-pointer from well beyond the arc late in the third quarter that gave the Wolves a 12-point lead and enough of a cushion to withstand an eventual fourth quarter comeback by Bellarmine.
Guards Eli Mackie and Cutter Pace had kept their best player, point guard Charles Elzie completely bottled up for three quarters, but he finally got on the board in the fourth, putting up eight points.
“Eli and Cutter both did a really good job on him,” Callaghan said.
The Lions scored 16 in all in the fourth quarter, more than they had in the entire game up to that point, but the Wolves had a little magic leftover to preserve the victory.
Kelso drilled another big triple from the left baseline midway through the fourth to give South Kitsap a 31-20 lead. Eventually, Bellarmine had to intentionally foul and the Wolves were cool and calm from the free throw line. DeAnte Ward and Riley Escolta combined to hit five of their seven attempts down the stretch to keep Bellarmine at bay.
Ward finished with a game-high 12 points for South Kitsap in the low-scoring defensive battle.
“I think we were both very strong on the defensive end and that kind of controlled the game a lot,” Kelso said. “Props to them, they played great defense tonight.”
The win improved Callaghan’s career record to 300-179, but the head ball coach is already focused on the team’s remaining slate of games, which is favorable. The Wolves play Graham-Kapowsin twice, Sumner twice, Rogers and Puyallup. A sweep of Emerald Ridge, currently seventh in the SPSL, has removed the possibility of a tiebreaker with them, and a good record through their final six games should put the team into the district playoffs in what is believed to be Callaghan’s final season.
“That Emerald Ridge game put us in a good spot,” Callaghan said.
South Kitsap 36, Bellarmine Prep 30
BP 7 5 2 16 — 30
SK 9 8 11 7 — 36
Bellarmine Prep (30) — Elzie 8, Monroe 6, Hanly 4, Meines 4, Summers 4, Garcia 3, Smith 1.
South Kitsap (36) — Ward 12, Kelso 9, Morkert 7, Escolta 5, Mackie 2, Pace 1.