By Josh Brown
KETTERING — Even despite the result, Bethel boys basketball coach Brett Kopp was glad to see his Bees playing in the Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament.
It was a chance he never got.
“We may have got beat, but we’re glad we’re here,” he said. “It’s a first-class event, second in the nation, and it’s something that, growing up in the area, you always go to — and now they got to play in it. I know I didn’t get to play in it. It’s the first time we’ve been here, the kids represented themselves well, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Bethel — which now sits just outside the AP’s top 10 in the Division III poll — took on third-ranked Roger Bacon Monday on the final day of Trent Arena’s national showcase event, and though the Bees were able to rally and cut into the big deficit after falling behind, the Spartans pushed the lead back and took control for good heading into the fourth and handed the Bees a 74-54 loss.
Bethel (11-2) trailed by eight in the second quarter and cut the lead all the way to one, only to fall behind 35-26 at halftime. After trailing by 11 early in the third, the Bees cut it down to three once and then four, but an 11-4 Roger Bacon run to close the quarter put Bethel down 55-44 heading into the fourth, and the Spartans put it away from there.
And turnovers were the main cause of all of Roger Bacon’s runs, as Bethel committed 21 of them in the game while only forcing eight.
“We remember Purcell Marian from last year (Bethel’s district final loss), and that’s exactly what they did to us,” Kopp said. “They just continue to come at you. We’ve got to get better at handling the basketball as a team. But even then, it wasn’t like they were all live ball turnovers, so we still didn’t defend very well. They’re the third-ranked team in the state for a reason.
“It was a great experience for our kids, though, and a chance for us to see where we’re really at come tournament time.”
Roger Bacon (12-2) led wire to wire, kicking things off with a 3 by James Johnson. The Spartans led 8-2 before a drive by Caleb South and a Ryan Rose 3 kept the Bees within a point. A 7-0 Roger Bacon run that went early into the second quarter, though, stretched the lead out to eight points, and the Spartans still led 19-11 before Bethel began to fight back.
Rose hit his third 3 of the game, but Johnson answered quickly with another to keep the lead at eight at 22-14. But South hit a free throw, then Ian Anderson got the rebound on the missed second one and kicked out to Jacob Evans for a 3. South the tossed in a tough putback, and a steal and free throw by Anderson cut the lead to one at 22-21.
But Craig McGee and Nick Pfriem each hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to five, then a steal and layup by McGee, a free throw by McGee and a steal and putback by Pfriem capped off a 9-0 run and made the score 31-21, and the Bees trailed by nine at the half.
“Our gameplan coming in was to make them shoot jumpers. They did that and more,” Kopp said. “We also gave up some dribble penetration that led to some easy buckets. We tell our kids if the ball’s not falling, to get to the rim, get to the foul line. They got to the rim tonight, and that’s what hurt us.”
Trailing by 11 early in the third, a dunk by Tyler Terry kicked off an 8-2 Bethel run that cut the deficit to 37-34. Roger Bacon responded with a 7-2 run, then a transition layup by South capped off a short burst by the Bees that cut the Spartans’ lead to 44-40 — but that was as close as Bethel got. Alec Priem hit a 3 to kick off an 11-4 run, with the Spartans taking advantage of three Bethel turnovers during the run to take a 55-44 lead into the final eight minutes.
The Spartans put the game away from there, leading by as many as 21 at 66-45 in the fourth.
South led all scorers with 23 points and tied for the game high in rebounds with six to lead Bethel. Rose hit three of the Bees’ six 3s and added 15 points, Terry and Evans each added six points and Ian Anderson had four points, five rebounds and four assists. The Bees outrebounded the Spartans 29-22 in the game and shot well, going 19 for 42 (45 percent from the field.
“We only shot 42 shots. Last Friday, we shot 75,” Kopp said. “If you turn those turnovers into shots, we’re almost there. We’ve got a chance to look at film now and see what we need to improve upon. There’s a lot of things. We’re 11-2 with things we can correct. It’s good — we can get better.”
Alec Pfriem led the Spartans with 22 points, McGee added 17 points, Nick Pfriem finished with 11 and six rebounds and Johnson chipped in eight as Roger Bacon went 28 for 49 (57 percent) from the field.
Bethel returns to Cross County Conference play Friday, hosting rival Miami East.
“I told my guys to lay it on the line, go get your respect that I think they deserve, and they did it,” Kopp said. “They played hard. People here know how hard they played, and that’s all I ask. That’s all I can ask them — to play as hard as they possibly can. And hopefully we’ll get a chance, maybe we’ll see them again and we can correct some of those things.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.