The Bethel College men’s basketball team made a furious comeback from 19 points down to get to within two, but it was the lapse in the first five minutes of the second half that made that comeback necessary in a 70-68 loss to Saint Mary Saturday in KCAC play at Thresher Gym.

Bethel drops to 7-18, 5-13 in KCAC play. The Threshers are four games behind Ottawa for the eighth and final spot in the KCAC playoffs with four games remaining.

“The difference in that game was the first four or five minutes of the second half,” Bethel coach Tony Hoops said. “It felt like an eternity. We lost all sense of discipline defensively, on basic concepts of ball-screen defense and weak-side defense. I give a ton of credit to those guys who came in during that stretch — Elijah Wilson, Poe Bryant, Maurice Jordan. Those guys came in when we were just miserable and played with discipline and gave us a shot. I love the fight. I love the toughness, but we can’t put ourselves in that situation.”

Brett Marsh led the Spires with 24 points. Demetrius Cady added 13.

Saint Mary improves to 13-11, 11-7 in KCAC play. The Spires are tied for fifth and are one game out of fourth, which would lead to a first-round home game in the post-season.

Terrell Marshall led Bethel with 23 points, followed by Chase Bannister with 15 and Bryant off the bench with 14 points and nine rebounds.

“I give Saint Mary a lot of credit,” Hoops said. “They are a way better defensive team than the first time we played them at their place (a 114-83 BC loss). They defended well. We defended well in the last 10 minutes of the game.”

There were eight lead changes in the first half. Bethel led by as many as three. USM led by as many as six. The Spires led by four at the half, 38-34. Bethel was outscored 15-9 from the 3-point line in the period.

Bethel gave up the first five points of the second half. Bethel took a time out and the Spires came back with a Marsh trey. Bethel then turned the ball over and took another time out, but Marsh scored on a three-point play, a layup and a dunk. Dakota Foster broke the run with 3-pointer with 14:20 to play.

The Threshers closed to within nine on a Maurice Jordan trey with 10 minutes to play. A Banister trey got Bethel to within seven with 1:58 to play. Marshall followed with a layup. A turnover set up one of two Sam Morgan free throws with a minute to play. The Spires turned the ball over again, setting up a Marshall layup. The Spires missed a shot on the other end, but got the rebound and the foul. Bethel got the ball back on a missed free throw.

A Marshall layup attempt just before the buzzer hit the front of the rim and bounced off.

“This one hurts,” Hoops said. “We’ve had too many of these this year. We got the look we wanted. I’d take that shot any day. We executed well down the stretch. We came up one shot short.”

Bethel hosts Ottawa at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Thresher Gym. The Braves bettered their chances for the KCAC playoffs with a 93-83 win over McPherson.

“They’re the team we would have to catch to get into the tournament,” Hoops said. “We lost by three or four (97-94) at their place. We know how big that is. This team hasn’t quit yet. I know they won’t.”

SAINT MARY (13-11, 11-7 KCAC) — Brice Plein 2-5 0-0 5, Brett Marsh 9-13 4-6 24, Payton Meek 2-6 0-0 5, Reid Titus 1-2 4-5 6, Edvonte Copeland 1-4 0-0 3, Darrious Denson 1-3 0-0 2, Demetrius Cady 3-10 4-4 13, Kenneth Banks 3-4 0-0 6, Dillon Blain 0-1 0-0 0, Teyvon Lundy 2-8 2-2 6. TOTALS 24-56 14-17 70.

BETHEL (7-18, 5-13 KCAC) — Chase Banister 6-7 0-0 15, Maurice Jordan 1-4 0-0 3, Joe Rushing 2-5 1-2 7, Poe Bryant 6-13 2-3 14, Trey Sleep 0-2 0-0 0, Sam Morgan 0-4 1-2 1, Elijah Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Dakota Foster 1-7 2-4 5, Terrell Marshall 7-10 9-9 23. TOTALS 23-53 15-20 68.

St. Mary;38;32;—70

Bethel;34;34;—68

Total fouls — USM 14, BC 14. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — none. 3-point shooting — USM 8-23 (Plein 1-1, Marsh 2-3, Meek 1-4, Copeland 1-3, Cady 3-8, Blain 0-1, Lundy 0-3), BC 7-18 (Banister 3-4, Jordan 1-3, Rushing 2-3, Bryant 0-1, Morgan 0-1, Wilson 0-1, Foster 1-4, Marshall 0-1). Rebounds — USM 28 (Marsh 7), BC 30 (Bryant 9). Assists — USM 17 (Cady 5), BC 14 (Marshall 6). Turnovers — USM 12 (Lundy 4), BC 13 (Rushing 4). Blocked shots — USM 4 (Banks 3), BC 2 (Foster 1, Marshall 1). Steals — USM 6 (Marsh 3), BC 5 (Foster 2).