The Bethel College Men’s Basketball team took their first step in returning to the NAIA Final Four this year as they defeated Friends University in the first round of the tourney on Wednesday afternoon. The Pilots struggled early in the game as they could not get into any offensive rhythm. The Pilots found themselves down 10-2 early on and played from behind the entire first half. Bethel managed to only score 21 points in the first half while shooting a terrible 26% from the field. Luckily for Bethel, Friends didn’t manage much better as they were only up by seven points as the score was 28-21. The second half was a completely different story. Sparked by sophomore guard Stephen Ward, the Pilots managed to take their first lead of the game with around 12 minutes to go in the contest off a three point basket from Ward. Ward came off the bench to score 10 points for Bethel while grabbing three steals and dishing out two assists. After the Pilots took the lead it was a matter of holding on. Both teams exchanged blows and battled back and forth until the final minute when Friends was forced to foul and Bethel converted on their free throw attempts. Bethel won by a final score of 77-57, scoring an astounding 56 second half points. Leading the Pilots in scoring was senior Tyler Brown, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Other key contributors were Ryne Lightfoot and Tony Benford. Lightfoot had 13 points and Benford added 10. Up next for the Pilots is the eighth ranked Embry Riddle Eagles. Embry Riddle defeated Evergreen State College in their first round game by a score of 80-78. The game will be played on Friday morning at 9:30 with the game being shown on delay at noon on Friday in the Goodman Gymnasium.