It was a hostile environment for the Bethel Bees to walk into on Friday night, as they made the trip to Pitsburg to battle Franklin Monroe in a game that would be a major step in defending the Cross County Conference championship. It was Homecoming for the Jets, and the place was filled with fans that would intimidate a lot of teams.
Not the Bees.
Bethel built a nine-point halftime lead before the two teams battled back and forth in the second half. The Jets took their first lead of the game very early in the fourth period, only to watch as the Bees went on a seven-point run and never looked back, earning a 66-58 victory and a key win in the CCC.
“We struggled rebounding the ball all night,” Bethel coach Brett Kopp said. “We have a bunch of guys who do play very hard and I thought that challenged our effort in the second half, and I challenged our guys and they came through.”
“We still only have three guys who have played varsity basketball before, so we are still learning. I am ok being 5-0 and still learning.”
Ryan Rose scored 23 for the Bees, as did Ethan Conley for the Jets. Both key players had their big moments but it was big shots from Rose and a couple of key free throws that were big for the Bees down the stretch.
“With Caleb (South) out, he has to do so much more and take on the load,” Kopp said. “He doesn’t come off the floor.”
Jacob Evans and Kendal James each added 12 for the Bees, while Alex Van Haaren had a triple double for the Bees, 10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks.
Bethel has to make many trips to Darke County this winter, as they play several of their conference teams on the road this season including Ansonia, FM, Tri Village and Arcanum.
“That is what makes it great,” Kopp said. “You hear all of these coaches talking about the young kids coming under fire, and with their Homecoming, this place got hot in a hurry. I am proud of them, they are starting to become more mentally tough.”
Bethel led 19-10 after the opening period, and stretched their lead to 32-23 at the half. The Jets used a 7-0 run midway through the third period to eventually tie the game at 38, but a big three from James gave Bethel the lead right back.
In the fourth, a three from Bryce Filbrun put the Jets in front 51-50 and they appeared to gain the momentum but the Bees didn’t stop. Korry Hamlin hit a layup to give Bethel the lead back, and that started a 7-0 Bethel run to put the Bees in front 57-51 with 2:59 left.
Rose his a big three, and Van Haaren scored twice in the paint to open up an eight-point lead in the final minute.
Bethel returns to action this weekend as they play in the Benner Fieldhouse Classic in Xenia. On Friday they play Fairmont at 6 PM, then return to action on Saturday to play an undetermined opponent.