The Bethel College men’s basketball team saw its hopes rise and fall dramatically throughout Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play.


The Bethel College men’s basketball team saw its hopes rise and fall dramatically throughout Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play.

The same was true Saturday against Kansas Wesleyan at Mabee Arena in Salina. With the winner getting the final berth in the KCAC post-season tournament, the Thresher’s hopes were low in the first half and sky high in the second. Bethel was down early in the overtime, but came back strong to claim a 62-57 win.

The Threshers, 7-21 overall and 6-12 in KCAC play, snap a 10-game losing streak and meet KCAC champion Sterling at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Sterling in the quarterfinals of the KCAC playoffs.

“I wish it was my speech at halftime that started the turnaround,” Bethel coach Mark Yoder said. “We played solid defense. Even in the first half, I wasn’t displeased with the defense. We struggled with our offensive game — our turnovers and shot selection. In the second half, we played solid D. We played a zone, and they struggled against it. Jason (O’Brien) hit two or three threes, and that really gave us a boost of confidence. Then Lee (Griffin) came in and played well defensively and made some things happen.”

The biggest play for O’Brien and Griffin came in the closing seconds of regulation. Down by two points, O’Brien launched a 3-point shot that rolled off the rim. Griffin pushed the rebound off the glass and into the basket to tie the game with 4.6 seconds remaining.

“My high school coach always used to tell us it’s not the shot that beats you, it’s the putback,” Griffin said.

O’Brien was held scoreless in the first half, but finished with 22 points, hitting eight of 16 from the field including six of 12 3-pointers. John Watson III scored 11 points. Griffin scored eight points off the bench with nine rebounds.

“I didn’t want this to be my last game,” said O’Brien, a senior from Santa Barbara, Calif. “The first half, I was in foul trouble. In the second half, I didn’t want this to be Matt’s (Regier) or my last game. We wanted to play 20 minutes as hard as we can. We’ve had a hard time scoring. As soon as a ball went into the net, we started playing with a lot more confidence. John had a huge step-back three. The freshman here (Griffin) had a huge put back on a post move.”

“In the second half, it was, ‘Do we have 20 minutes left of basketball? Do we want to play another game?’ ” said Griffin, a freshman from San Antonio. “We just played all together. We played with something to prove. I’ve got a few post moves, especially if a guard is on me. I didn’t hesitate to use it.”

Griffin said he was scouted by assistant coach Alonzo Jamison out of high school and decided to sign at Bethel after a campus visit.

“My major is education,” Griffin said. “I came here for that. It has its ups and downs, but I’m adjusting to make it my new home. It’s been a long season.”

Bethel was short handed inside. Starting post Matt Regier was in foul trouble much of the game, fouling out with 5:38 remaining in regulation. Back-up Ryan Cummins also struggled with fouls. Starting forward Chip Schnieder didn’t dress because of illness. Guard Austin Bumgarner finished the game in the middle.

“I knew coming in, I had to have a big game with Chip out and Matt in foul trouble,” O’Brien said. “I just didn’t want it to be the last game. Everybody played so hard. I ran out of gas (in overtime). Everybody else stepped up. We got big rebounds. Everybody picked each other up.”

Wesleyan, which ends the season 8-20 overall and 5-13 in KCAC play, was led by Matt Dickman with 11 points and Jerome Cheadle off the bench for 10. Wes Jones had 10 rebounds.

Neither team shot free throws well — Bethel was nine of 22. Wesleyan was eight of 27.

Bethel struggled on both ends of the court early, falling behind 9-0 in the first five minutes of play. At one point, fouls were seven to one against the Threshers. Bethel got within 11 in the final minute of the first half on an Eric Regier layup. Dickman hit a trey just before the halftime buzzer to put Wesleyan back up 30-16.

Bethel was just seven of 20 shooting while Wesleyan was 12 of 29, three of 10 beyond the arc.

The Threshers outscored Wesleyan 10-5 in the first five minutes of the second half to get within eight. After a Dickman trey, Bethel came back with an O’Brien trey and a Watson layup off a steal. Alonzo Haywood hit one of two free throws with 10:36 in regulation to get Bethel within one. Bethel rebounded the miss and scored to take its first lead of the game.

Bethel got out by as many as four with chances to extend its lead further. A short Dickman jumper tied the game 46-46 with 6:18 to play.

Cheadle put Wesleyan up one, hitting one of two free throws. After a pair of free throw misses by Bethel. Yoder was called for a technical foul with 3:48 remaining in regulation. Bryson Flax hit the two free throws to put Wesleyan up by three.

Bethel came back with a short O’Brien jumper. Bethel blocked a Wesleyan shot in the final minute. O’Brien missed a short jumper and Dickman was fouled on the rebound with 22.2 seconds in regulation. Dickman hit one of two shots to keep Wesleyan up by two.

After Griffin’s game-tying putback, a Dickman trey attempt at the buzzer bounced off the top of the rim.

Cheadle opened the overtime with a short jumper. After Wesleyan missed four straight free throws, Griffin tied it for Bethel midway in the overtime. Watson hit a trey with 47.4 seconds remaining to put the Threshers in the lead.

After two more missed Wesleyan free throws, Trey Ronnebaum hit two free throws with 30.9 seconds remaining. Haywood hit one of two free throws with 19.7 seconds to put Bethel up by six. Dane Brinker hit a trey for Wesleyan with 10.8 seconds to play. Ronnebaum hit two of four free throws in the remaining time to extend Bethel’s season.

“Give these kids a lot of credit for not quitting,” Yoder said. “These kids have been in a tough stretch. They could have just rolled over, but they didn’t. They have a chance to play in the playoffs.”

Sterling has handled Bethel 70-60 on the road and 63-49 Thursday at home. In Thursday’s game, Bethel was down five in the first half, but Sterling pulled away in the second.

“We’ll go down to Sterling Wednesday and give it everything we got,” Yoder said. “... This conference is crazy. You don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re a good team. There’s not a magic formula against them. We’re going to have to stop the threes. We’ll do a lot of the things we did Thursday, we’ll just have to execute better. We’ll have to figure out how to handle the ball under pressure.”

Sterling already has a berth in the NAIA Division II national tournament sewed up.

“I’m sure they want to play as long as they can so they don’t have a big gap between now and nationals,” Yoder said. “They’re a good team — very talented.”

“We have to take care of the ball, and we have to play as hard as we can,” O’Brien said. “We have to play as a team. I think we have another one left in us. Sterling is a tough team, but if we play together, we’re a tough team to beat. We’ve proven that.”

BETHEL (7-21, 6-12 KCAC) — M.Regier 1-3 0-1 3, O’Brien 8-15 0-0 22, Ronnebaum 0-2 5-8 5, Haywood 3-9 2-5 8, Watson 5-11 0-0 11, Griffin 4-4 0-2 8, E.Regier 2-2 0-0 4, Baumgarner 0-0 0-0 0, Wilhoite 0-0 0-0 0, Cummins 0-1 1-3 1, Baldia 0-1 0-0 0, Benton 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 23-52 9-22 62.

KANSAS WESLEYAN (8-20, 5-13 KCAC) — Antenen 2-5 0-2 4, Jones 2-8 1-6 5, Milani 0-3 0-2 0, Dickman 4-12 1-2 11, Flx 2-8 2-2 6, Chadle 4-5 2-11 10, Brinker 3-4 0-0 8, Kuhlman 2-5 0-0 5, Smith 3-5 2-2 8, Doll 0-1 0-0 0, Palmer 0-0 0-0 0, Greer 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 22-56 8-27 57.

Bethel 16 36 10 —62

Kan.Wes. 30 22 5 —57

Total fouls — BC 22, KW 21. Technical fouls — BC: Bench. Fouled out — BC: M.Regier. 3-point shooting — BC 7-17 (O’Brien 6-12, Haywood 0-1, Watson 1-3, Baldia 0-1), KW 5-22 (Antenen 0-3, Dickman 2-8, Flax 0-4, Brinker 2-3, Kuhlman 1-3, Doll 0-1). Rebounds — BC 38 (Griffin 9), KW 44 (Jones 10). Assists — BC 6 (six with 1), KW 10 (Antenen 3). Turnovers — BC 15 (O’Brien 3, Haywood 3), KW 17 (Dickman 3, Flax 3). Blocked shots — BC 6 (six with 1), KW 6 (Jones 4). Steals — BC 12 (Ronnebaum 4), KW 6 (Flax 2).

KCAC Post-Season

Tournament

Quarterfinals

Wednesday

(All games 7 p.m.)

8. Bethel (7-21, 6-12 KCAC) at 1. Sterling (18-10, 14-4 KCAC)

5. Friends (13-16, 10-8 KCAC) at 4. Tabor (17-10, 11-7 KCAC)

7. Southwestern (16-11, 8-10 KCAC) at 2. McPherson (17-12, 11-7 KCAC)

6. Saint Mary (17-13, 10-8 KCAC) at 3. Bethany (13-15, 11-7 KCAC)

Semifinals

Saturday

(All games at 2 p.m. at highest seed)

Bethel-Sterling winner vs. Friends-Tabor winner

Southwestern-McPherson winner vs. Saint Mary-Bethany winner

Championship

6 p.m. Feb. 28

at Hartman Arena

Semifinal winners