MISHAWAKA – The Bethel College men’s basketball team relied on a high-octane offense in a 110-101 victory over Spring Arbor University Saturday afternoon to advance to the Crossroads League Championship game on Tuesday night.
The Pilots got things going early in the game, going on a 14-5 run in the first four minutes of the contest. The Pilots continued their high scoring offense over the next four minutes, extending their lead to 11 (26-15). With 4:34 left to play in the half the Pilots owned a comfortable 23 point lead, but the Cougars refused to go away quietly, finishing out the half on a 17-9 run and cutting the Pilots lead to just 15 (59-44).
Both the Pilots and Cougars headed into halftime shooting 56.3 percent from the field, connecting on 18-of-32 attempts. The Pilots advantage came from behind the three-point line, as they connected on 7-of-14 field goals from deep compared to 4-of-9 from the Cougars. The Pilots also were a perfect 16-of-16 from the free-throw line, while the Cougars were 4-of-5.
Senior Jordyn Coon, a WCHS product, led the Pilots at the half with 15 points and three assists, going 4-of-7 from the field including 3-of-4 behind the three-point line. Senior Caleb Oetjen added 11 points and three assists, going 4-of-7 from the field also.
The Pilots and the Cougars traded buckets back and forth during the early part of the second half. The Pilots biggest lead of the second half (20) came with 9:28 left to play in the contest, but the Cougars continued to claw their way back into the game. With 6:21 left to play in the game and Bethel up by 16 points the Cougars decided to attempt to pressure the Pilots with a full-court press. In the next three minutes of the game the Cougars went on a 10-4 run, thanks in large part to their on the ball pressure, cutting the Pilots lead to just 10 (97-87). The Cougars were able to cut the Pilots lead to nine a couple of different times in the last three minutes of the game, but were unable to make it over the hump, as the Pilots came away with their 28th win of the season.
The Pilots finished the night shooting solid 52.5 percent from the field (32-of-61), 50 percent from behind the three-point line (9-of-18), and a season high 94.9 percent from the free throw line (37-of-39).
Coon finished the night with 22 points and three assists, going 5-of-10 from the field.
Senior Clay Yeo, the former Triton High School star, finished the night with 17 points and four rebounds. Oetjen finished the night with 16 points and five assists.
Junior Gage Ott became the second Pilot this season to surpass the 1,000-point milestone when he knocked down a free throw in the second half. Ott finished the night with 16 points, connecting on 5-of-9 from the field. Sophomore Paul Forman recorded the second double-double of his career with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.
Senior guard Nick Kindig, a former standout at Tippecanoe Valley, added 11 points for the Pilots.
Spring Arbor freshman Paul Marandet scored a game-high 25 points. The former WCHS standout was 9-16 overall from the field, including 2-5 from distance. Marandet also went 5-5 from the free throw line and had three rebounds and five assists.
Tommy Hamilton scored 20 points for the Cougars.
The Pilots now move to 28-4 on the season, and look to face the Wildcats of Indiana Wesleyan University in the Crossroads League Championship game on Tuesday. The Pilots defeated the Wildcats twice during the regular season, once in an 88-84 victory at Indiana Wesleyan and later in an 87-74 victory at Bethel. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bethel.