By Josh Brown
XENIA — The Troy boys basketball team got behind early both nights of Xenia’s Benner Fieldhouse Classic holiday tournament.
Bethel, meanwhile, struggled to shoot the ball from long range both nights.
And while the Trojans’ problem came back to haunt them again during Saturday night’s consolation game against the Bees, Bethel managed to find another spark in the post play of Alex van Haaren, who piled up a career-high 22 points and added 15 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the Bees to a 59-54 victory in Xenia.
Bethel (7-1) lost its first game of the season in the early game Friday night, falling 57-41 to Fairmont, while Troy (3-4) was defeated by host Xenia 80-62 in the late game on Friday.
In Friday’s early game, Bethel fell behind big early against Fairmont, as well, with the Firebirds taking a 23-10 lead after the first quarter and maintaining that lead at the half, 30-17. The Bees trimmed three points off the lead in the third, going into the fourth quarter down 44-34, but Fairmont outscored them 14-7 in the final quarter to put it away.
“We struggled (shooting) here last night and a little tonight, and the difference tonight was Alex van Haaren and everybody else rebounding,” Bethel coach Brett Kopp said. “When we rebound and limit teams to just one possession, 85-90 percent of the time, we’re going to be very successful. Because Alex is a good passer — once he gets the rebound and gets it out, we can just go.”
For the Trojans, it was a familiar problem on both nights.
“We battled and came back — but we just can’t get down by 13 (against Bethel) in the first place,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “Our inability to finish inside hurt us. And their big kid (van Haaren) had something to do with that. But we just didn’t make a lot of our shots inside in the first quarter — but in the fourth, when we had to, we did. But we shot 22-23 percent in the first half. We just had a rough night shooting.”
Friday against Xenia, the Trojans fell behind big early as the Buccaneers outscored them 27-9 in the first quarter and led 44-22 at halftime. Samari Curtis led all scorers with 33 points for the Bucs, hitting four of the team’s eight 3s on the night. Jay Evans hit the other four 3s and added 14 points, and Meechi Harris pitched in another 14.
Zach Reichelderfer led the Trojans against Xenia with 17 points, with Brenden Kinnel and Jacob Martinez each adding 11 and Chris DeMeo scoring nine.
And in Saturday’s consolation game, Troy fell behind again as the Bees took a 12-7 lead after one, then van Haaren really got involved. The senior scored 14 points in the second quarter, including a personal 6-0 run right before the half that turned a three-point lead into a 28-19 advantage at the break.
“He’s got that capability,” Kopp said of van Haaren. “Alex is such a likeable kid, and he’s easy to joke around with. But we challenged him tonight — and he just came through for us. He’s got that ability. He’s got something that really gets us going. When he gets a block, we’re gone. But he had a different kind of aggression tonight, and I’m proud of him.”
The Bethel lead grew to as big as 13 at 40-27 late in the third quarter, but the Trojans — who put together a fourth-quarter rally on Tuesday night to beat another county rival, Tippecanoe, at the buzzer — began to came alive. Martinez scored nine third-quarter points, including a jumper late that cut Bethel’s lead to 43-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
Troy continued to chip away in the fourth, too, with a Cole Brogan free throw getting the Trojans to within four at 50-46 with 2:40 remaining, then a 3 by Martinez cutting the lead to only three at 53-50 with 1:15 to play.
“Sometimes we’re behind,” Bremigan said when asked why his team plays better in the fourth quarter. “Against Tipp, we played a good quarter, but it was a little rag-tag, because what did we have to lose? Tonight, our backs were against the wall. In the first three quarters, we were trying to shoot around (van Haaren), and in the fourth we took it at him. That was what we needed to do from the first quarter, and we didn’t.”
With Troy forced to take gambles defensively and running out of time, Ryan Rose hit a pair of free throws with 1:09 left to make it 55-50, and Brogan hit a free throw to make it a four-point game — but Troy got the offensive rebound on the missed second free throw. However, van Haaren blocked the putback try and collected the rebound himself, drawing a foul with 35.5 seconds left and hitting both to make it 57-51.
Reichelderfer scored on a putback to get the Trojans back within four with less than 20 seconds to play, but that was as close as they got as the Bees closed it out from the line from there.
Rose — who set Bethel’s single-game 3-point shooting record earlier this week with nine in one game — hit the Bees’ only three 3s on the night and finished with 19 points. Kendal James and Jacob Evans each had eight points and Korry Hamlin had two points, six rebounds and four assists.
“This is a game where, yeah, we drive all the way down to Xenia, but we could’ve played 10 miles from school,” Kopp — who is a teacher at Troy High School and former Troy assistant basketball coach — said. “The kids all know each other, I know the coaches and some of the kids very well. And it was a battle. They played hard, we played hard, and both teams overcame some adversity throughout the game. This is a good win for us going into the break.”
Reichelderfer led the Trojans with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Martinez finished with 16 points — 12 in the second half — and Brenden Kinnel had 11 points — eight in the second half. Brayden Siler added four points, DeMeo scored three and Brogan had two.
Troy hosts Springfield Shawnee on Dec. 29, while Bethel is off until Dec. 30 when it hosts Fort Loramie.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.