The Bethel College men’s basketball team has won the 2013 Crossroads League tournament after a thrilling 68-65 victory over Taylor University on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The Pilot faithful were out in full force and the atmosphere in Gates Gymnasium was electric. This was the Pilots’ first trip to the championship since 2010, and the fans were eager to cheer the team on. The game was a close one from the start. The first few minutes saw four ties. But then the Trojans jumped out to a seven-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the half. But the Pilots closed the half on a tear, breaking out a 10-2 run to take 32-31 lead at halftime. The second half began as a carbon copy of the first. Neither team could pull away. But then an 11-2 Pilot run capped by a three from sophomore guard Zach Miller put Bethel up 45-36 with 14:39 on the clock. But Taylor’s Ben Raichel would not let his team go down without a fight. He nailed a pair of threes to cut the lead to just three. But Bethel had an answer. A quick 8-1 run put them up by ten with eight minutes to go. Then the Pilots started running the clock. The strategy was working beautifully, and the Pilots held a commanding nine-point lead with less than a minute to go. But then the Trojans caught fire. They cut the lead to three with 0:37 to go and Bethel couldn’t do anything to stem the tide. A Pilot turnover and subsequent foul on a three from Taylor’s Casey Coon gave the Trojans an opportunity to tie the game. Coon made two of the three and the Pilots still held a slim one-point lead. But the Pilots’ free throw shooting was clutch down the stretch. Senior forward Jordan Bowerman hit two free throws to bring the Pilot lead back to three. Coon missed a three and Bethel’s junior center Michael Mislan grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He hit both free throws and the lead was now five with eight seconds to go. But Coon hit an amazing three from another zip code to keep the Trojans’ hope alive. Taylor quickly fouled Bethel’s sophomore guard Matt Schauss on the inbounds play and he went to the line for two free throws. If he hit both, the game would be out of reach. First free throw…no good. Now the door was propped open. Schauss hit the second, but Taylor still held on to a thread of hope. But their last-second heave fell short, and the game was over. The Pilots were led by Schauss who had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Mislan and junior guard Ryan Benner also chipped in 11 points each. "We really went back to basics after last season’s final game," head coach Mike Lightfoot said in an interview with bethelcollegepilots.com. "We had many weaknesses and had to work on them immediately to get back to where we wanted to be. The sacrifices each player and coach made in the off-season was incredible and it's nice to see their efforts pay off. We still have a long ways to go and our guys are hungry about the upcoming opportunities." The win gave the Pilots’ the second automatic bid for the National Assocation of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II National Tournament in Point Lookout, Missouri from March 6-12. This was the Pilots’ first Crossroads League championship since 2009, and their seventh overall.