By Josh Brown
DAYTON — Bethel coach Brett Kopp and his Bees knew first-hand what they were up against.
And once Thursday night’s Division III district final at UD Arena against Roger Bacon — a 75-30 loss to the Spartans, Bethel’s second defeat at their hands this year — was all said and done, Kopp reminded his team what it had accomplished over the course of a 21-4 season that included an outright league title and a second straight sectional championship.
“It was a great season. We had a great season,” Kopp said. “We haven’t won the Cross County Conference outright since the 1980s. That’s something to be proud of, it really is. And I told the seniors that over the last two years, they won 38 games. And in my opinion, they’re the reason Bethel is back on the map.
“I told the kids that I push them. I push them and I push them. They gave me everything they have all year long. They put in the work and the effort. The ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight — many times.”
In the end on Thursday, one game after the Bees scored 101 points in the sectional final against Anna, they simply couldn’t make shots.
Bethel was 11 for 45 (24.4 percent) from the field in the game, including only 3 for 22 from 3-point range. And even from the free throw line, a strength all season, the Bees struggled, going 5 for 16 in the game.
“We went from, what, 101 points and 15, 16 made 3s to three,” Kopp said. “I wouldn’t say live by the 3, die by the 3, but I didn’t think it’d happen … until tonight.”
Much of that, though, was because of Roger Bacon’s defense — which had held the Bees in check once before during the regular season. The Spartans defeated the Bees 74-54 at the Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament in January, and both teams finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in the state in D-III, with Bethel ninth and Roger Bacon 10th.
Bethel junior Caleb South — who led all scorers in the first meeting with 23 points and scored 46 points in the Bees’ sectional final win over Anna — was held to only 10 points in the game and added five rebounds and two assists, leading the team in all three categories. Ryan Rose added seven points, Tyler Terry had four, Jesse Nickell had three and Nate Rimkus, Christian White and Daniel Hagan each scored two.
Turnovers, which cost the Bees in the first meeting, hurt again, with Bethel turning it over 19 times but also forcing 16 to balance them out. But the Spartans made Bethel’s turnovers count, scoring 21 fast break points to the Bees’ seven, turning what had been only a 12-9 lead after one quarter into a 26-13 lead halfway through the second thanks to a 12-0 run.
“The tournament draw comes around and we get a No. 2 seed, it’s pick my poison —do I want to play Summit (Country Day), or do I want to play Bacon?” Kopp said. “They’re just tough and physical, and their guys coming off the bench are just as physical as the guys that start. It’s a different ballgame once you get to the district final.”
The Spartans, on the other hand, had no such struggled shooting the basketball. They shot 60.9 percent from the field in the first half and held a 32-15 lead at the break. Bethel cut that lead to 11 at 34-23 after a 3 by South early in the third, but Roger Bacon rebuilt a 47-27 lead heading into the fourth — and then started the final quarter on a 14-0 run, outscoring the Bees 28-3 in the final eight minutes.
James Johnson led all scorers with 22 points, including a four-point play early in the second quarter that kicked off the Spartans’ 12-0 run, and added seven rebounds. Alec Pfriem added 17 points, Craig McGee had 15 points and Justin Johnson scored seven points as Roger Bacon went 29 for 45 (64.4 percent) from the field and 12 for 14 (85.7 percent) from the free throw line in the game.
Roger Bacon advances to the regional semifinal Wednesday at Trent Arena, where it will face Versailles.
Bethel, meanwhile, can look back on a league and sectional championship season that saw the Bees set the school record for regular season victories in a year — and it can look ahead to next year and a potential third trip in a row to the district level.
“There is four teams at the end of every year that go home happy,” Kopp said. “We just happened to go a little shorter than we wanted to get to.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.