“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” — Sherlock Holmes
The Bethel College women’s basketball team made one of the most improbable comebacks in team history, overcoming a 20-point deficit with 9:21 remaining in the fourth quarter to stop Nebraska Christian 67-64 Monday in the Threshers’ home opener at Thresher Gym.
The 0-2 Sentinels had three players foul out 12 turnovers in the final quarter of play.
“Hopefully, we’re starting to learn the kind of passion and effort it takes to win,” Bethel coach Drew Johnson said. “We had that at the end of last year and we’re trying to get that back at the beginning of this year. Winning’s not easy, or everyone would do it. We have to get back to that level of intensity and passion.”
Jazmine Santiel led the Sentinels with 35 points, hitting 12 of 24 from the field and five of nine from 3-point range before fouling out with 4:02 to play. Camry Porter scored nine points with 10 rebounds.
“Santiel had a really nice night,” Johnson said. “We need to do a better job against better players who show up. That’s part of the game. We don’t apologize (about the foul outs). We just have to keep attacking.”
Bethel was led by Abby Schmidt with 14 points and 10 rebounds, her second double-double in as many games. Jade Brown added 11 points.
The spark plugs of the comeback were freshman Kendall Michalski with 12 points, nine in the fourth quarter; and Alyjah Kennedy with seven points, all in the last four minutes of the game — including the tying free throws and the go-ahead basket.
“I give credit to Nebraska Christian,” Michalski said. “They took us out of our game. We just weren’t doing the little things. We played very sped up.”
“We were playing at their pace instead of our own pace,” Kennedy said. “They did a great job of that. … I just wanted to win. I wanted all of us to win. I believe our team, at that point, deserved to win.”
“Alyjah and Bree Taylor were huge down the stretch,” Johnson said. “The minutes they played had big time energy and passion that brought us back into the game. Both of them are not known for being high-volume scorers, but both played really big roles.”
Bethel finished the game 18 of 38 from the line, but did hit 13 of 19 in the fourth quarter.
“We have to get better in all areas of the game, but especially the line,” Johnson said. “We shot 47 percent from the line. We have to do a better job there.”
“Our free throws were a little rough tonight,” Michalski said. “We definitely hit them at the end. Not that they weren’t important before then.”
Kennedy is a junior from San Diego.
“It’s a change of environment, a change of culture, a change of everything,” Kennedy said. “I like it here. It’s quiet. It’s easier to focus on basketball and track and school. I was struggling. I’m like a sophomore on the court, but I have been here four years. I had issues. I don’t feel like I had a coach who believed in me until last year.”
Michalski came to Bethel from Washburn Rural outside of Topeka, where she finished third in the Class 6A state tournament last year.
“I love it,” Michalski said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team and better teammates. In the first week or so, it felt like home.”
Each team had a four-point lead in the first quarter, missing chances to extend it, until Karlie Schroeder hit a jumper for Bethel with nine seconds left in the period, putting the Threshers up 21-15. Bethel was hampered by one of seven free throw shooting in the first quarter.
The Sentinels made a 9-0 run to start the second quarter, hitting three of three free throws. Bethel trailed by as many as 12 in the period.
A Riley Schmeider jumper with 24 seconds left in the period got Bethel back within 10, 36-26, at the half.
The Threshers hit just 29.7 percent from the field in the first half (11 of 37), two of six from 3-point range and two of 13 from the line. NCC was 11 of 30 from the field, four of 10 from 3-point range and 10 of 11 from the line.
“This team right now has the ability to get a little bit complacent,” Johnson said. “As coaches, we have to help them understand that. That’s a coach’s problem and not a player problem.”
NCC made a 6-1 run to start the third quarter, hitting three of four from the line. Bethel took a time out and made a 6-0 run to prompt a Sentinel time out. The Threshers added two more points to the run after the time out, but gave up a 6-0 run to trail by 13. Bethel trailed by 14 at the end of the period, 53-39. Santiel scored the last four points of the period for NCC.
The Sentinels appeared to put things away with a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Foul trouble for NCC allowed Bethel to get back within 10 with 3:34 to play as three Sentinel players fouled out. NCC also was called for a technical.
Michalski hit a three with 2:52 to play, followed by another NCC turnover and technical. Michalski followed with two free throws to make it a five-point game. Schmidt hit a layup with 2:28 remaining.
After a 10-second backcourt call, Brown hit one of two free throws. Bethel then drew an offense foul with 1:56 to play.
Kennedy hit two free throws with 1:21 to tie the game. Bethel forced a turnover 16 seconds later. Kennedy hit a six-foot jumper with 49.4 seconds left and put in a rebound with about 30 seconds to play.
Porter broke the run with one of two free throws with 17.4 seconds to play. Justice Alloth missed two free throws 2.2 seconds later.
The Sentinels got the ball back on a held ball with 9.8 seconds left, but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Bethel plays at the McPherson College Classic this weekend, facing 2-0 Oklahoma Panhandle State at 2 p.m. Friday and 0-1 Central Christian College at noon Saturday. Both teams are NAIA Division I schools.
“Both Panhandle State and Central Christian are pretty good,” Johnson said. “That Mac Classic is always fun. It’s a great opportunity to test where you are. We’ll find out. I’d like to see us play every day in practice at the same level that fourth quarter was.”
“For us as a team, if we continue to work together, we can be really good,” Kennedy said.
NEBRASKA CHRISTIAN (0-2) — Camry Porter 4-10 1-2 9, Jerrica Perez 1-3 2-2 4, Jazmine Santiel 12-24 6-6 35, Alexis Frondarina 1-12 6-8 8, Justice Alioth 0-1 1-4 1, April Eldridge 0-1 0-0 0, Cayla Bloodworth 1-2 1-2 3, Bianca Casares 2-7 0-0 4. TOTALS 21-60 17-24 64.
BETHEL (2-0) — Bryanna Taylor 1-5 0-0 2, Caitlin Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Alyjah Kennedy 2-3 3-4 7, Karlie Schroeder 3-4 1-2 8, Josie Calzonnetti 1-9 0-0 2, Riley Schmieder 1-3 1-2 3, Kendall Michalski 3-9 4-8 12, Jade Brown 5-16 1-3 11, Lauren White 0-0 0-0 0, Kayla Newman 3-7 2-5 8, Alex Bearup 0-5 0-0 0, Abby Schmidt 4-13 6-14 14, Sydney Tenant 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 23-74 18-38 67.
Total fouls — NCC 31, BC 17. Technical fouls — NCC: Perez, Frondarina. Fouled out — NCC: Bloodworth 4:06-4q, Santiel 4:02-4q, Perez 3:34-4q. 3-point shooting — NCC 5-19 (Porter 0-1, Perez 0-1, Santiel 5-9, Frondarina 0-6, Alioth 0-1, Bloodworth 0-1), BC 3-17 (Taylor 0-2, Schroeder 1-1, Calzonnetti 0-4, Michalski 2-6, Brown 0-2, Bearup 0-2). Rebounds — NCC 38 (Porter 10), BC (Schmidt 10) 54. Assists — NCC 11 (Porter 4, Frondarina 4), BC 11 (Brown 7). Turnovers — NCC 26 (Porter 13), BC 19 (Schmidt 3, Schroeder 3, Michalski 3, Bearup 3). Blocked shots — NCC 9 (Bloodworth 3), BC 3 (Calzonnetti 1, Newman 1, Bearup 1). Steals — NCC 10 (Santiel 5), BC 11 (Brown 4).