Men's Basketball

Pilots upset rival, prepare to play no. 6 IWU

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In their first of two games against nationally ranked opponents, the Bethel men’s basketball team upset the no. 12 Grace College Lancers on the road. Fresh off their own entry into the NAIA Top 25, the Pilots upended their rivals from Winona Lake 98-88 in the NAIA Game of the Week. The Pilots came in as the no. 21 team in the country riding a ten-game winning streak. It was the first time the Pilots had cracked the NAIA Division II Coaches’ Top 25 poll since March 4, 2010 – a span of 78 games. And the team showed they deserve the high praise. After a slow start, the Pilots found themselves in a ten-point hole. But this team has been resilient all season, and they continued the trend on the road against a tough Grace team. “(Grace was) up ten early,” said assistant coach Tony Natali. “I thought we did a real good job of weathering the storm.”
The Pilot men's basketball team is riding an 11-game winning streak (including a victory over rival Grace College) into their monumental matchup against Indiana Wesleyan this weekend.
But then the winds changed. A 16-1 run put the Pilots up 34-29 midway through the first half and they kept the momentum going into the intermission with a 46-43 advantage. The second half started the way the first half ended. The Pilots came out of the locker room scorching with a quick 13-1 run after a rare four-point play from sophomore guard Zach Miller. This gave the Pilots a commanding 59-44 lead. Despite a few late runs from the Lancers, Bethel remained in control the rest of the way en route to a commanding ten-point victory. Senior forward Jordan Bowerman was the star of the game, leading the Pilots with 24 points and eight rebounds. He was followed closely by junior guard Ryan Benner who stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, seven boards and five assists. The Pilots were also boosted by another solid game from their bench including 13 points from junior center Michael Mislan. The win snapped Grace’s 12-game home winning streak and it gave the Pilots a 60-59 advantage in the all-time series. To the coaches and players, the win is great but it isn’t any more significant than the other games on the schedule. “It’s just another step in the process,” Natali said. The next step comes against no. 6 Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) at Gates Gymnasium at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12. The game is a key matchup for the Pilots who are getting used to playing in big games. With an 11 game win streak and multiple upsets of ranked teams, are the Pilots starting to listen to all the hype? “No,” Natali said. “I think our guys realize that we have a lot to prove.” The game is important for multiple reasons. Obviously when the no. 6 team in the country comes to your home court you’re going to want to bring your A-game. But the Pilots have some added significance for this game. The team is participating in the “Stand Up to Cancer” campaign, and Bethel professor Dr. Lynne Cary will be explaining the school’s cancer research program at halftime of the game. Former Bethel baseball stars and current major leaguers Justin Masterson and Eric Stults will be on hand as well. Despite everything surrounding this big game, Natali still says that the process is the same. “We take it one game at a time.” It seems that process has been working pretty well so far.
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