March 14th, 2015

Bellarmine turns the table on Drury in regional win

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Bellarmine turns the table on Drury in regional win
Chris Whitehead chest bumps Michael Parrish (No. 11) on left after Parrish hit a three pointer on his 21st birthday / cover: Whitehead lays in a bucket on a fast break / photos by Dan Petrik

The No. 1-seed Bellarmine Knights turned the shooting tables on the No. 8-seed Drury pounding the Panthers 84-60 in the first round of the Midwest Regional before a capacity crowd at Knights Hall Saturday night.

What a difference a week makes. And what a difference a full complement of players makes.

Sophomore forward Josh Derksen, who missed last Sunday’s GLVC tournament title game, scored 14 first-half points and his 6-foot-9 frame helped hound the Panthers on the perimeter.

Last week, Drury made 11 of its 18 three point attempts and shot 61 percent from the field en route to a 77-70 win. Tonight, it was the Bellarmine defense limiting the Panthers to 45.7 percent shooting and only 8-of-18 from three point range (44.4 percent). It was a masterful performance against a very good perimeter shooting team.

“That was two great basketball teams playing,” Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport said. “But we defended one-through-five for forty minutes as good as you can defend and they still shot 46 percent. We defended the heck out of them. We played with tremendous poise and tremendous unselfishness not only on offense (Bellarmine had 22 assists on 31 made baskets), but on defense as well. We gave for each other defensively tonight.

“If you’d been around this team all week, the way we said it (was): be willing to make sacrifices, but understand that your teammates are willing to make those same sacrifices for you,” Davenport continued. “And we transferred that into competition. When you get that feeling with a lot of talented guys, that’s really special.”

It was a defensive game-plan designed by assistant coaches Reece Gaines, Mike Scott and Damien Anderson and executed to perfection by every player on the floor. And, just like last week’s GLVC tournament game, the Knights held the Panthers to just 29 points in the first half. Unlike last week, Bellarmine limited Drury to just 31 second-half points compared to the 48 they gave up in the GLVC tournament championship.

“It was tremendous preparation and a lot of film work this week,” Davenport said. “What you saw out there today, and I’m like a proud father here, you saw the Reece Gaines as a coach that the Louisville fans saw as a player. He transferred that to his coaching this week. Same with Damien and Mike.”

Captains Jake Thelen and George Suggs echoed their coach’s sentiments.

“We just defended so well in practice this whole week,” senior forward and GLVC Player of the Year Thelen said. “We talked so well and chased Bundy (Drury’s sharp-shooting guard Kameron Bundy) off of ball-screen after ball-screen and we all did a great job defensively.”

Junior forward George Suggs praised the Bellarmine reserves for showing Drury’s offense in practice.

“The guys worked so hard to mimic their offense which is pretty tough as much as they move and as well as they play together,” Suggs said. “We had guys step up in practice and make us work as hard as we could to prepare us for today.”

In addition to the stellar defensive effort, the Knights seemingly couldn’t miss on offense. They shot 61.9 percent in the first half (13-for-21) and even better 64.3 percent (18-for-28) in the second half. The Knights’ starting front line of Thelen, Suggs and Derksen combined to make 20-of-25 shots (80 percent), including 4-for-5 from three point range.

Drury's Ben Fisher led the Panthers with 17 and Kameron Bundy added 12. The two combined to score 46 points in the GLVC championship game. Cameron Adams netted 10.

In essence, Bellarmine out-Drury’d Drury from the field. All five starters scored in double-figures with Thelen scoring a game-high 21, Derksen’s 17, Suggs (11) and Chris Whitehead and Rusty Troutman with 10 apiece. Whitehead also added five steals and five assists to his stat line.

Even Thelen got into the act as he hit his second career three pointer as a Bellarmine player with the shot clock running out in a key second half possession.

“We work on the three point shot every day in practice and every day in individuals,” Thelen said. “He (coach Davenport) always says if you practice them, expect to make them.”

Davenport was effusive with his team’s preparation, effort and attention to detail.

“Top to bottom, this basketball team today was phenomenal,” he said. “Their focus, concentration and attention to detail all week was tremendous.”

And then there was the difference-maker Derksen. He sat out last week’s GLVC tournament semifinal and title games with a flu bug, but made huge contributions against Drury this time around. His 17 points, three rebounds and four assists, along with some solid defense added a dimension the Knights did not have last week.

“His (Derksen’s) parents were scheduled to leave this morning (to return to Australia), but their flight was cancelled and they saw the game,” Davenport said. “He didn’t have a clue (that they were in attendance). I wanted him to get to spend some time with them (after the game) because they’re leaving early in the morning.”

Derksen’s parents, Chree and Michael, had to love being a part of the sold-out Knights Hall crowd.

“Knights Hall tonight was phenomenal,” Davenport said.

From Thelen: “It was louder than it’s been here all season and it was electrifying. We have the best fans in Division II and the best home court advantage.”

And Suggs: “It was the best time I’ve had here at Bellarmine. The team fed off the crowd all night.”

Expect Knights Hall to be in full voice plus another notch as Bellarmine will play the winner of the Lake Superior State-Ferris State game in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Lewis vs. University of Indianapolis semifinal. 


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