By Josh Brown
BRANDT — Caleb South’s impending milestone Friday night wasn’t exactly a secret.
Which explains why the first shot that would have given him 1,000 points in his career was so far off the mark.
“My mom (Laura South) told me what to expect. So I knew I was going to be super, super nervous,” the Bethel junior said. “That first shot I shot was off by about 50 yards. Just settling down and playing my game was the key.”
Once the Bees were able to calm down, it was all over.
South found the perfect way to settle down, getting his 1,00oth career point from the free throw line with 3:12 remaining in the opening quarter, and his eight points in the first helped the Bees tie the score after one. Bethel began the second completely calm and focused, opening the quarter on a 12-0 run, building a 23-point lead by halftime and finishing off Ansonia 61-37 in its home, season and Cross County Conference opener Friday night.
The Bees (1-0, 1-0 CCC) can’t really be faulted for being a bit overexcited.
“Caleb’s three points away from 1,000 coming in,” Bethel coach Brett Kopp said. “Everybody knew it. It was all the talk at school today. It’s our first game of the year, first time for real playing in front of their friends and girlfriends and mom and dad, so everyone was a little anxious.”
In the end, though, South had a lot to feel grateful for, too.
“It’s a once in a lifetime feeling,” South said. “I’d like to thank all of the coaches I’ve ever had, and my family, and God, of course. Life has its highs and lows, but they’ve all helped sustain me and keep me even keel. I’m just so thankful to everyone.
“And to get to do it at home, I’m just so grateful. The game was supposed to be away, but Ansonia moved it. And for them to do that, I’m just so very thankful to be able to do this in front of our home crowd. It’s awesome.”
“We knew and they (Ansonia) knew (how close to 1,000 points) Caleb was,” Kopp said. “So coach (Chad) Kramer offered to move the game. We’re both small, tight-knit communities, and they knew how much this meant to Caleb and all of us. We all appreciate it a lot.”
Once the game began, all that anxiousness came out, though. South missed on a drive and then barely drew backboard on a missed 3-point try that would have gotten him the milestone. The Tigers’ Devyn Sink, meanwhile hit a pair of 3s and helped stake Ansonia (0-1, 0-1 CCC) out to an 8-0 lead before Bethel’s Tyler Terry hit a 3 to finally put the Bees on the board with 4:10 left in the quarter.
After the Bee defense got a stop, South got to the free throw line and sank both free throws to put himself within one point of 1,000. After an Ian Anderson steal, South got his own rebound on a fast-break miss, drew another foul … and calmly hit the first to set off the celebration. He hugged his coaches and teammates, then he went into the stands to give his mother the game ball and hugs to his family, as well, before getting back to action and hitting the second free throw.
“Yes, that really helped me,” South said of getting to the free throw line. “In warmups before the game, guys would give me a high five and then tell me my hands were really sweaty. I was so nervous. But I’ve put in a lot of work on the free throw line in the summer. A lot of preparation and practice went into all of this.”
Two more free throws and a transition layup by South gave the Bees an 11-8 lead before Sink sank yet another 3 to tie the score at 11-11 after one.
“It wasn’t just Caleb. All of the guys were excited,” Kopp said. “There were some plays that I maybe didn’t agree with, some times I felt like the guys were forcing the issue to Caleb. They all wanted him to get it. Once he got it, we were glad for him — and we knew could just play.”
The minute the second quarter began, the Bees did just that.
Bethel cashed in points on its first seven possessions of the quarter while forcing turnovers on each of the Tigers’ first four possessions. A putback by Kendal James got things rolling, followed by a steal and layup by South and a long 3 by Ryan Rose to make it 18-11 and force an Ansonia time only 1:08 in. Another turnover led to another Rose 3, and a Rose layup after a steal capped off a 12-point run before a Sink 3 slowed the Bees’ momentum.
For only a moment, though. Terry hit a jumper, than Anderson won a scramble for a loose ball and got it to Rose for yet another 3. A three-point play, another free throw and a fast-break layup by South made it a 20-point game. Rose hit a fifth 3 by the time the half was over, and the Bees led 40-19 at the break.
“We outscored them 29-8 in that second quarter,” Kopp said. “We have the ability to be a really good team. When we play together, when we play good defense, we’re going to be a team that can contend for a league title. And that’s our main goal.”
South poured in 12 more points in the third quarter as the Bethel lead grew to as many as 28, and with 5:03 left in the fourth quarter the Bees emptied out the bench and cruised from there.
South finished with 30 points, adding eight rebounds and three assists, and Rose scored 17 of his 18 points in the first half. Terry added five points and five rebound, James scored four points, Alex van Haaren had two points and six rebounds and Nate Rimkus added two points.
Sink led Ansonia with 23 points, hitting seven 3s and scoring 17 of their 19 first-half points. No other Tiger scored more than three in the game.
Bethel returns to action Tuesday at home against Northeastern.
“We want to contend for the league title,” Kopp said. “To do that, we’ve got to stay healthy, we’ve got to stay hungry and we’ve got to keep working hard to get better.”
And, since he hit 1,000 points so early in the first game of his junior season, South had a simple answer when asked if he was beginning work on the next thousand.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.