WINONA LAKE – For those who were bored, wanted to find fresh popcorn, or had to run home to see who was going to get voted off The Voice, they missed quite an ending to what was shaping up to be a very one-sided affair Tuesday night.
Bethany Christian held a 38-11 lead in the third quarter over Lakeland Christian, only to see that lead almost disappear before righting the ship in a 52-40 boys basketball final.
Everything Bethany was doing in the first 22 minutes of the basketball game was working. The Bruins attacked LCA’s man-to-man defense with clever backdoor passes, dribble drives and kickouts for threes that were falling at will.
Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes was on fire from distance, hitting five three’s into the third quarter. His fifth gave the Bruins the 27-point lead that forced LCA head coach Chris Hohm into a timeout. At that moment when time was granted, the Bruins faithful on the south end of the gym were feeling very good. The LCA fans watching their first home game of the season were feeling like ‘here we go again’.
“They came out in the second half and wanted to kill the clock, and we had to adjust to them,” Hohm said. “We had to pressure them, and once we did, that rattled their approach just a little bit. That kept them from shooting the threes they got in the first half. Their clean looks they got in the first half we cleaned up a little in the second half.”
LCA, which has never beaten Bethany, would close out the quarter on a modest 6-0 run. For those who were packing up to get home to see who Carson Daly was ushering off the stage in tears, they missed some decent drama away from Adam Levine bickering with Blake Shelton.
Josh McDaniel, who was held to just two points through those first 22 minutes, all of a sudden found space and his shooting stroke. A smooth crossover and step-back three brought the Cougars to 41-29 with 4:54 to go, then following a Bruins offensive foul, McDaniel drilled another three. Nervousness now was written all over the boys in blue as McDaniel urged the home faithful on.
McDaniel hit a jumper with 2:29 to go to get LCA down just four at 44-40, capping an absurd 29-6 run. LCA, which didn’t even score a point in the second quarter, now all of a sudden was dribbling down the court again after Seth Brenneman missed two free throws. But a pair of LCA turnovers on its next two possessions and a steal and layup by Brenneman ended the surge, putting Bethany back up 47-40. Five free throws in the final minute closed out the Bruins victory.
“That run we made wasn’t an X’s and O’s thing, it was really just mentality,” Hohm said. “We didn’t come out focused at the beginning of the game. We looked lost. We looked soft. We lacked energy. I told them we needed to attack. I don’t care if we get a foul, we need to attack. It took us too long to get there, but once we did, that’s when we saw that run start. I just wish we would have started it sooner.”
McDaniel was the high-point man for LCA with 16 points. Elijah Raymond, who came alive in the fourth quarter, added 10 points and five rebounds. Noah Twombley, who was mired in foul trouble from the get-go, finished with four points, six rebounds and three steals.
Brownsberger-Keyes led Bethany with 17 points and Brenneman had 12 points. Bethany, which was just 14-28 from the free throw line in the game, made 10 of those attempts in the fourth quarter.
“We’re closing that gap (with Bethany),” Hohm said, noting Bethany is in transition with its fourth coach in four years. “That makes a difference for them. But we’re not losing by 25-30 points like we were a few years ago. It was 12 points tonight, but we had them down to four in the fourth quarter. I would love this to be a game every year that we circle and know it’s going to be a battle.”
The JV game saw LCA hold on to a 29-28 win over Bethany.
Bethany (1-2) will host Prairie Heights Saturday night while LCA (0-2) will entertain Hamilton Saturday in a boys-girls doubleheader, the ladies taking the court at 4 p.m. and the boys to follow.