When we last saw the Bellarmine Prep Lady Lions on the basketball court, they were hoisting the third-place trophy at the 2017 4A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome. It was the capper to a 26-3 record and the greatest basketball season in Bellarmine girls’ history. A quick glance at the returning players on the lineup said this team could be something fierce the following winter.

Fierce may not be a strong enough term.

While the season is still young, the Lady Lions have come out baring their claws and fangs as if they were already on the hunt.

Last season, they were on the hunt for a 4A South Puget Sound League championship, and they swept through the regular season with nothing but victories over their league foes. They were then on the hunt for a 4A district championship. Bellarmine would roll together three consecutive wins, including a victory over eventual state champion Kentridge in the district title game.

Bellarmine’s hunt for a state crown would end when Kentridge exacted some revenge in the state semifinal matchup. However, by that time, it had become apparent that the Lady Lions were not just a local power any longer. After defeating defending state champion Central Valley (and an easy pick to repeat) in the quarterfinals, the rest of the state had now been put on notice.

This is a program that has been strong for quite some time, and it just keeps on getting better.

With two high-profile victories in their first four contests, Bellarmine (4-0) has already been rewarded with a solid ranking in the first RPI rankings released by the WIAA on Wednesday, Dec. 13. The Lady Lions opened the season with a thrilling 62-61 victory over defending state champion Kentridge on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Bellarmine then followed that up two days later with a solid 18-point victory over a formidable Curtis Viking squad.

The Lady Lions are ranked third in the first 4A RPI rankings, and while it’s very early in the picture, it’s nice to see that the WIAA seems to have gotten their act together with the new system. Kentridge, with their only loss being to Bellarmine, comes in at fifth, while Curtis sits at a respectable 11th.

When the Lady Lions paid a visit to the Puyallup Vikings on Tuesday, Dec. 12, it looked as though it was going to be a mental test for Bellarmine. Would they look past a 1-4 Puyallup squad in the middle of a rebuild and play down to their opponents? The answer came shortly after tip-off.

Midway through the first quarter, Bellarmine’s swarming, full-court press had already done a number on Puyallup. The scoreboard read 19-2 for the visitors, and by the looks of things, this was going to be long night for the host Vikings.

By the end of the first quarter, Bellarmine had staked out an impressive 25-3 advantage, while several reserves had already been thrown into the mix. To put things entirely in perspective, Puyallup’s largest point run against Bellarmine was a three-pointer early in the second quarter, and a basket and free throw with less than a minute remaining in the first half.

This is the sort of statistic that one rarely comes across. Puyallup was unable to string together two baskets, without Bellarmine answering, for an entire game.

The score was 38-12 at halftime and it wasn’t going to get any better for the Vikings. After their eight minutes of hard work in the third quarter, the Puyallup crowd must have been rather stunned to see a 14 on the Vikings’ side of the scoreboard. The Lady Lions had outscored Puyallup 25-2 in the third quarter, and they did it from the inside, the outside and from transition buckets off a bevy of steals.

It was a clinic at someone else’s school.

Bellarmine eased off on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter. The game was already a blowout, and there was no need to further run up a score that finished at 72-22.

Nine Lady Lions scored in the game with junior forward Ciara Gatpatan leading the way with 15 points, followed by 13 points from University of Arizona-bound Shalyse Smith. Sophomores Makiah Reed and Lulia Bordeaux chipped in 10 points apiece.

The Lady Lions return to action at home on Friday, Dec. 15, as they host the Olympia Bears (3-3). Bellarmine will not host another game until they play Sumner (6-0) on Wednesday, Jan. 3. This is a game to circle on the calendar, since it appears that Sumner and Curtis are likely going to be the strongest teams standing in the way of another Bellarmine 4A SPSL championship.

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