Unfinished business. That is how the 2019-2020 Bellarmine basketball team views this coming season. Illness, injuries, and an ill-timed quarter contributed to the Bells missing out on a WCAL three-peat. Even so, Bellarmine captured third place in league play. In the CCS Open Division, the team advanced to the finals for the fourth straight year and the first time any school had achieved that standard of excellence. In a thrilling overtime victory in the semi-finals, the Bells knocked off a Riordan team that was the only WCAL team to have beaten the Bells in both rounds of league. And they did so missing two of their top players. Unfortunately, the short-handed Bells struggled in the title game, falling by 2 to Sacred Heart Cathedral. The season came to a sudden end at Moreau Catholic where the team lost a double overtime classic, in a game the Bells had won in regulation until a questionable call with 0.1 seconds allowed Moreau Catholic to tie the game.
There is reason to hope that this unfinished business can be redeemed this coming season. Five different rising seniors and one rising junior started games for last year’s team, including Quinn Denker who earned 2nd team all-WCAL honors, Constantijn Cole who earned WCAL Honorable Mention, and Ian Elam who became one of the team’s leading scorers throughout the Bells’ play-off run. Kyle Lewis and Ridley Ruth, two strong defenders and drivers, also started games last season. Rounding out the list of players who started games for the Bells last year is 6’8 rising junior Ryan Kiachian, a gifted scorer and rim protector.
In addition to these players with proven success throughout last season, the Bells return other seniors who will add to the great depth of this year’s team. Josiah Ajiake earned the Best Work Ethic award at last year’s banquet and has transformed his game greatly in the past two years. Jackson Dupree, a skilled shooter who transferred from Leigh, missed the preseason due to CCS rules but will start this year ready to compete for playing time.
And rounding out the Bells’ optimism heading into the 2019-2020 season are the players joining the team from the undefeated JV squad. Three members of that team were brought up for varsity play-off competition: Cole Despie, Anthony Piro, and Josh Wolf-Bloom. Fans who attended play-off games will remember how well Josh Wolf-Bloom played in those games.
For all the Bells who return and will raise up, the team will greatly miss the guys who just graduated. A three-year varsity player, First Team All-WCAL honoree, and Prep2Prep CCS Player of the Year, Kiran Kruse is bringing his talents and great leadership to Claremont McKenna. The team also loses the scoring punch of Gio Saso, Cole Troedson, and Ryan Troedson along with the cultural leadership provided by Nick Grassman, Scott Nelson, and Jackson Williams.
The path to finishing business will be challenging. Besides the work that will need to be done to fill the gaps left by our graduating seniors, the team will also need to gird itself for the rigors of WCAL play. In basketball, more so than any other WCAL sport, every team is capable of winning on any given night as evidenced by the fact that last year’s 7th place team captured the CCS Open Division crown. The team’s goals of capturing league, section, and state titles will be helped by a rigorous preseason, one that sees a more competitive field in the DJ Frandsen tournament, a road game at perennial power St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, and the annual trek to the Torrey Pines National Invitational Tournament.
Time to get started on the finishing of business.
Coach Patrick Schneider, in his 27th season as the head coach of the varsity basketball program, fully embraces Bellarmine’s mission and continues to focus on the benefits of committed effort, sportsmanship, and complete dedication to the team. He has become a wonderful role model for our young men, molding them athletically, academically, and spiritually—on and off the court. Since taking over the program in 1991, Coach Schneider has guided the Bells to five WCAL titles, 14 CCS championships, and 18 NorCal appearances. Mr. Scheider is a member of our Religious Studies department.
Varsity Assistant Coaches: Alfred Duncan, Alex Sarrett
JV Head Coach: Chris Denker
JV Assistant Coach: Jeff Fong
Freshman Head Coach: Jerome Facione
Freshman Assistant Coaches: Dave Frandsen, Mike Manalastas, S.J.