By Josh Brown
BRANDT — Bethel girls basketball coach Mark Mays watched his Bees grow up right in front of him.
“I told them before the game tonight that they’d had a great week of practice, and it looks like you’re maturing and understanding what you’re supposed to be doing as basketball players,” the third-year coach said. “Looking for that great pass, being patient with the ball, hitting the jump shot when you’re there, rebounding, hitting free throws — all the game situations, they’ve picked it up a level.”
Thursday night, that next level added up to the Bees first victory of the young season as Bethel (1-2, 1-1 Cross County Conference) opened up an 11-point lead after the first eight minutes and continued to pull away throughout, defeating the Bradford Railroaders 56-27 in its conference opener at home.
“I’ve been talking about that since I’ve been here, picking it up a level,” Mays said. “We had a great week of practice this week, and it all started at Arcanum really. We played a good, fundamental game, scored 55 points and lost to them. I think the kids are maturing as basketball players.
“This group of kids, it’s my third year with them. And I think they finally understand what I’ve been talking about for the past two years.”
And it wasn’t just one or two players — it was the entire team growing up.
Ten Bees scored in the win, with seven of those players scoring six or more points in the balanced attack. Becky Schwieterman gave Bethel a lift early in the game, scoring nine of her team-high 11 points in the first quarter to stake the Bees out to a 15-4 lead after one, including converting a steal into a buzzer-beating three-point play to energize the Bees even more.
That carried over into the second quarter as the Bees completed a 13-0 run to take a 26-4 lead as Delaney Hardert finished off a couple of fast breaks after turnovers late in the first quarter, Kayla Grable hit a pair of jumpers early in the second quarter, Klaudia Lowery scored a second-chance bucket and Schwieterman knocked down a pair of free throws. Bradford’s Brooke Fair hit a jumper on an inbounds play to end the run, but by then Bethel was already off and running with the game.
“That’s our game — all of our kids, even our bigs, can dribble and get it up the floor,” Mays said. “Like Alaina (Hawthorn) and Klaudia, they can both take it coast to coast. We have two 6-foot-1 kids that can dribble the length of the floor on you and put it in the hoop. We’ve been working on our fast-paced game, get it up the floor in transition — and tonight, that worked for us.”
Bradford’s Mandi Bates got going in the second quarter, though, scoring eight of her game-high 14 points in the final three minutes of the first half. After the Bees were hit with an illegal substitution technical, Bates hit both free throws and then hit a jumper for a four-point swing, making the score 30-10. Hawthorn scored for the Bees, then Bates drove in for a layup and hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 32-14 at the half.
That was as close as the Railroaders got, though, as the Bees began the second half on a 9-2 run that included a steal and layup by Grable, a putback in transition by Lowery and a steal and pair of free throws by Hawthorn. Bates hit back-to-back buckets for Bradford to make it 41-20 late in the quarter, but Morgan Crase hit the first of her two 3s on an inbounds play in the closing second and Bethel led 44-20 going into the fourth, coasting from there.
Schwieterman added five rebounds to her 11 points as Bethel outrebounded Bradford 47-30 in the game, while Crase scored all 10 of her points in the second half and added four rebounds. Hawthorn had six points and a game-high nine rebounds, Grable had six points and seven rebounds, Lowery and Sarah Swisher each had six points and six rebounds, Hardert had six points, Maddi VanHoose and Grace Anthony each had two points and Ashley Buchholtz had one point.
“We have to spread it around,” Mays said. “Against Arcanum, we had nine girls score. Against Piqua, we had eight. The kids are scoring baskets, and our 3-point shooting is coming around.”
Bates led the Railroaders with 14 points and three rebounds, Fair had three points and a team-high seven rebounds and Hannah Fout added three points. Chelsea Gill, Bailey Wysong and Mercedes Smith each had two points and Liv Hart had one.
Bradford will continue to look for its first win of the season Saturday at Newton, while Bethel travels to Franklin Monroe Dec. 15 looking to begin a winning streak.
“Good things are happening,” Mays said. “As a coach, you’ve got to be patient and let the kids develop — and once they see it … I kind of think they’re starting to feel it right now. It feels good to see some of the things working that you’ve been working on for a long time.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.