MISHAWAKA – A packed crowd at Gates Gymnasium on the campus of Bethel College was on hand to see the No. 4 ranked Bethel College Pilots defeat the No. 6 ranked Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats 87-74 on Saturday afternoon.
The victory gives the senior class their 100th win as members of the Pilots.
Caleb Oetjen led three Pilots in double figures with 22 points going 8-of-12 from the field.
Jordyn Coon, a WCHS product, had a huge performance for the Pilots in the big Crossroads League win. Coon contributed 18 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
Junior Gage Ott added 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Senior guard Nick Kindig, a former star at Tippecanoe Valley High School, started out the contest hitting back-to-back threes, which was followed by a bucket from Ott giving the Pilots take an early 8-4 lead. However, Indiana Wesleyan responded with point-guard Grant Zawadzki hitting a pair of triples to take a 10-8 lead with 15:43 left to play in the half. Both teams struggled to secure the ball early in the first half, having a combined 18 turnovers in the first twelve minutes of the game. The Pilots closed out the half hitting four of their last six attempts and going on a 13-8 run to take a 47-42 lead at the break.
Bethel headed into the locker room shooting 54.3 percent from the field and connecting on 19-of-35 attempts while shooting 42.9 percent from behind the three-point line. Oetjen led the way for the way for the Pilots with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and 2-of-4 from behind the arc. Coon added nine points and four rebounds, and Ott contributed eight points on 4-of-5 attempts from the field.
The Pilots started the second half strong, going on a 15-8 run to extend their lead to 14 (64-50) with 13:52 left to play. In the next minutes of the game the Wildcats responded with six different players scoring to go on a 15-3 run, which cut the Pilots lead to just two with 8:30 left to play. Despite the run, a quick bucket from Oetjen and Coon would give the Pilots a seven-point cushion entering the final two minutes. With 1:43 left play the persistence of the Pilots helped them gain an 11-point lead. While Indiana Wesleyan tried to cut the lead with three-point attempts from Bob Peters and Grant Evans, both shots fell short. The Wildcats were forced to foul, and the Pilots stepped up to the challenge, knocking in all six free throws in the last minute and a half to help secure the victory.
The Pilots shot 55 percent from the field, connecting on 33-of-60 attempts, while shooting a solid 42.3 percent from behind the arc. Oetjen finished the night going 8-of-12 from the field and a solid 3-of-6 from the three-point line. Coon ended the night connecting on 7-of-15 attempts and 4-of-8 from deep. Kindig and Covington each added eight points a piece.
The Pilots pressured the Wildcats defensively, holding them to just 42.6 percent from the field and a season low 24 percent from behind the three-point line.
With the win over the Wildcats, Bethel improves to 21-3 overall, and 11-1 in the Crossroads League. The Pilots have now won 11 straight in league play. The Pilots currently sit atop of the Crossroads League two games ahead of the Wildcats, who are second.
The Pilots will travel to Goshen on Wednesday to face the Maple Leafs in league play. Goshen is 3-9 in the Crossroads League and 10-14 overall after losing to Grace College on Saturday.