Men's Basketball

Men’s hoop team rebounds nicely with conference win over IWU

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Senior Ryne Lightfoot brings the ball up against St. Francis in a big MCC game. (Photo by Keith Cooper)
Senior Ryne Lightfoot brings the ball up against St. Francis in a big MCC game. (Photo by Keith Cooper)
Despite a short stumble in the last two weeks which consisted of a road loss at Taylor and the end of an impressive 31 game home winning streak to St. Francis, the Bethel men’s basketball team has rebounded with a solid road win over Grace and a much needed triumph over Indiana Wesleyan University. Wesleyan is currently in first place in the conference standings. This puts the Pilots in a three-way tie for second place with a conference record of 7-3 and an overall record of 19-4. The other two teams currently tied with the Pilots in second place are St. Francis and Spring Arbor, while the Wildcats from Indiana Wesleyan hold on to a first place 8-2 MCC record. Nevertheless, there is a lot that can happen from now until the end of the season as all four of these top ranked teams have six conference games remaining. The Pilots will play two of these games at home and four on the road. Although the Pilots are finished playing the Wildcats for the regular season, the last game of the regular season is at St. Francis which could be a very key conference battle. The first of the back-to-back losses for Bethel occurred at Taylor, where the Pilots were defeated by a score of 79-73. Despite being without senior starter, Tyler Brown, the Pilots were led by Wes Laidig who put up an impressive 25 points, while Ryne Lightfoot contributed 20. Laidig also led the team in rebounding, bringing down six offensive rebounds and three defensive. Bethel controlled the game early and possessed a 45-34 halftime lead; however, Taylor kept pushing and began the second half with an 11-4 run to put them right back in the game. The Trojans controlled the game for much of the second half and held a one-point lead with a minute to go before pulling away. Taylor proved that despite their conference record, which consisted of one win at the time, they were a very talented team that is tough to play on the road. Following the tough road loss at Taylor, the Pilots hosted the St. Francis Cougars, where the Pilots saw their 31-game home win streak come to an end with a nail-biting score of 89-87. The Pilots were once again without their senior starter, Tyler Brown, but fought hard throughout the entire 40 minutes of play. The Pilots played very well in the first half, narrowly outscoring the Cougars by a score of 43-42 at the half. Nevertheless, the Cougars kept grinding away and controlled a solid lead late in the game. The Pilots did come back after falling behind by eleven, but came up just two points short. With a chance to tie it up in the waning seconds of the game, Tony Benford was fouled at the three point line with 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock. Benford converted one out of the three free throws and the Pilots lost by two. Benford did lead all scorers that night with 23 points. With their backs to the wall, the Pilots were able to come up with a strong win at Grace College by a score of 81-71. The Pilots once again played a very impressive first half, which put them on top 45-40; nevertheless, the Lancers continued to chip away at that lead in the second half. In the end, the Pilots were able to outscore the Lancers by five points again in the second half. Ryne Lightfoot was the leading scorer of the game, contributing 21 points, while Benford chipped in with 19. Landon Booker had an impressive game coming off the bench, playing nearly 24 minutes and scoring 12 points. The Pilots also did an excellent job at the free throw line, closing out the game as they finished 20 for 26 from the charity stripe. Tuesday the Pilots hosted the Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats which turned out to be a very exciting MCC contest. The Pilots turned in a great first half performance, which earned them a 42-35 lead. However, the Wildcats went on a 15-0 run early in the second half, which gave them a five point lead. This led to many lead changes in the game and an exciting finish. As it neared the end of the game, the Pilots were pushed forward by a key three-point play by Wes Laidig and clutch free throws from Joey Welch. Three players, Ryne Lightfoot, Wes Laidig and Caleb Laidig all finished with 17 points for the Pilots. Joey Welch also turned in a double-double performance with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Senior leader Derek Moser offered some of his thoughts on how the Pilots are currently performing and what the team needs to improve on. “We really decided to step it up in rebounding, especially defensive rebounding,” said Moser. “Everyone has stepped up since Tyler ‘D-Block’ Brown has been injured. We need to improve on our defense and be more consistent on the defensive end. We have a lot of heart and determination and know what it takes to win.” The Pilots will return to action on Jan. 30, when they travel to Goshen to take on the Maple Leafs. The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. The next home game for Bethel is Saturday, Feb. 6 when the Pilots will play the Huntington Foresters at 3 p.m.
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