Bethel Threshers men continue to push boundaries

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Bethel junior Clifford Byrd II scored 26 points on 10 of 19 shooting to pace the Threshers to its first-ever win in NAIA tournament play, stopping Northwestern (Iowa) 76-69. Bethel faces Shawnee State at 3:45 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
Bethel junior Jaylon Scott scored 25 points with 11 rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot to lift the Threshers past Northwestern (Iowa).
Playing through an ankle injury suffered in a morning practice, Bethel post Adam Gouro scored eight points with six rebounds and a blocked shot in a 76-69 win over Northwestern (Iowa).
Bethel junior Tavion Flowers makes a pass during play Saturday against Northwestern (Iowa). The Threshers win their first game in the national tournament.
Bethel freshman Jalyn Todd forces a held ball during play Saturday in the NAIA national tournament in Wichita. Bethel advances to the round of 16 in Kansas City, Mo.
The bracket for the final three rounds of the NAIA tournament.

WICHITA — The Bethel College men’s basketball team continues to reach new heights, but they haven’t been easy.

After a double-digit lead in the second half was reduced to one point, Clifford Byrd II went on a 6-0 run to lead the Threshers to a 76-69 win over Northwestern (Iowa) Saturday in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament at the Garvey Center in Wichita.

Bethel, 21-6, heads to historic Memorial Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., for the round of 16, which begins Thursday.

Byrd II led Bethel with 26 points. Jaylon Scott added 25 points and 11 rebounds.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Byrd II said. “I knew we were coming back down to score again. We just executed an offense play. We didn’t get scared when they started coming back. We stayed composed.”

“We’ve had a lot of first evers at Bethel the last two weeks,” BC coach Jayson Artaz said. “It is really special. I probably sound like a broken record at times, but I really love this team. The guys are so unselfish, they work so hard. They bought into everything we want this program to be. Everytime, we get a first, I’m glad its these guys.”

Northwestern (23-6) was led by Craig Sterk with 18 points before fouling out late in the game. Isaac Heyer scored 16 points. Alex Van Kalesbeek scored 14 points with 10 rebounds. Jay Small scored 13 points.

The Raiders were taller than the Threshers at nearly every position.

“We played big guys like that at the beginning of the season and against William Penn,” Byrd II said. “We knew what we were heading into and we were up to the challenge.”

Bethel jumped out 5-0 early. The Threshers led by as many as 15 in the first half. A Scott basket with 5.7 seconds left in the first half was wiped out on a charging call, leaving the Threshers up 45-32 at the half.

Fouls were 10-5 against Bethel in the first half.

Byrd II opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Northwestern got back within seven. Bethel replied with a 6-0 run.

Northwestern got within three on a Van Kalsbeek three-point play with 5:35 in regulation. After a Bethel miss, Van Kalsbeeks scored on another layup, but missed the free throw.

Byrd II broke the run with a jumper and a pair of free throws. After a couple of misses for each team, Byrd II drained a short jumper to get Bethel back out by seven with 2:35 to play.

Noah Slagter broke Bethel’s run with a 3-pointer with 1:30 to play. That was as close as the Raiders would get.

Bethel will be the 12th seed for the round of 16, facing fifth-seeded Shawnee State of Ohio at 3:45 p.m. Thursday. The Bears are 27-2, beating West Virginia Tech 76-70 to advance. Shawnee State won the Mid-South Conference regular-season and post-season tournament titles.

“We just want to keep winning,” Byrd II said.

“It will be a fun experience going to Kansas City,” Artaz said. “I’m looking forward to coaching these guys a little longer.”

BETHEL (21-6) — Jaylon Scott 12-25 1-3 25, Clifford Byrd II 10-19 5-5 26, Tavaughn Flowers 2-4 0-0 5, Adam Gouro 3-4 2-5 8, Harper Jonas 0-1 1-2 1, Bryant Mocaby 2-5 2-2 8, Nick Bonner 1-3 0-0 3, Jalyn Todd 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS 30-63 11-17 76.

NORTHWESTERN (Iowa) (23-6) — Isaac Heyer 5-10 3-3 16, Jay Small 4-13 3-4 13, Grant DeMeulenaere 0-3 0-0 0, Noah Slagter 2-3 0-0 6, Craig Sterk 6-9 5-6 18, Matt Onken 0-1 2-2 2, Alex Van Kalsbeek 5-16 4-5 14. TOTALS 22-55 17-20 69.

Bethel;45;31;—;76

N-western;32;37;—;69

Total fouls — BC 18, NW 15. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — NW: Sterk 3:58-2h. 3-point shooting — BC 5-15 (Scott 0-3, Byrd II 1-4, Flowers 1-1, Jonas 0-1, Mocaby 2-5, Bonner 1-1), NW 8-24 (Heyer 3-8, Small 2-9, DeMeulenaere 0-2, Slagter 2-2, Sterk 1-2, Onken 0-1). Rebounds — BC 35 (Scott 11), NW 38 (Van Kalsbeek 10). Assists — BC 7 (Byrd II 4), NW 11 (Small 4). Turnovers — BC 8 (Scott 3), NW 16 (Small 8). Blocked shots — BC 3 (Scott 1, Gouro 1, Todd 1), NW 2 (Sterk 1, Van Kalsbeek 1). Steals — BC 9 (Scott 3), NW 1 (Heyer 1).

Mark Schnabel can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com.