Pilots and Lancers renew epic rivalry

 -  -  4


It is hard to imagine a better way for the Bethel College men's basketball team to ring in the New Year. The number 5 Pilots (13-2) face off against the Lancers of Grace College (8-6) in a big Crossroads League matchup Saturday at 3 p.m. in Winona Lake. Both teams ended 2013 on a high note.
The Pilots are coming off a victory at the Chuck Daly Memorial Classic in Florida.
The Pilots are coming off a victory at the Chuck Daly Memorial Classic in Florida.
The Pilots come in having just won the Chuck Daly Memorial Classic in Florida with a 77-74 victory over former NCAA champion Rollie Massimino and his number 12 Northwood squad. Now the Pilots get to face another coaching legend, Grace College Head Coach Jim Kessler, whose team is fresh off their biggest win of the season - a 67-59 upset of no. 23 Ashford. The teams' recent success would make this an important game anyways, but add on the fact that it is Grace/Bethel, and you have a monumental showdown. The Pilots-Lancers rivalry is a Crossroads League rivalry dating back to 1960. Oh, and it is a true rivalry! The all-time series is tied 60-60, however the Lancers have won five of the last six games including a 96-83 victory over the Pilots on Feb. 12, 2013 in Mishawaka, Ind. The Pilots will look to reverse their recent struggles against the Lancers with a team that boasts a high-powered offense. Bethel is the seventh highest scoring team in the nation at 91.5 points per game (PPG), thanks in large part to three star guards. Junior guard Zach Miller comes into the game averaging 18.5 PPG and shooting 50 percent from three. He leads the nation with 67 three-pointers made on the year. Senior guard Ryan Benner was just named the Most Valuable Player of the Chuck Daly Memorial Classic after a 43-point outburst in the semifinals against Windsor. It was tied for the third-highest single-game total in Pilots' history. Junior point guard Matt Schauss has played the best basketball of his career this year. He comes in averaging 14.4 PPG and 5.4 assists per game (APG) on the year. He has played efficiently with a 1.65 assist/turnover ratio as well as shooting 55 percent from the field. However, the Lancers have some firepower of their own. Senior forward Greg Miller has been one of the best players in the entire Crossroads League. He enters the game averaging 19.9 PPG and 10.3 rebounds per game (RPG). His partner in crime is junior guard Niko Read who is averaging 13.3 PPG on the season. However, for both teams, the biggest stars are on the bench. Pilot head coach Mike Lightfoot and Lancer head coach Jim Kessler are two of the best in the nation. They are both in the top five in the history of NAIA Division II for career wins, and they have 1,384 combined between them. Lightfoot is now just three wins away from a total of 700. For the Pilots, this game begins a daunting stretch of conference play. After Grace, they have three consecutive games against teams mentioned in the most recent NAIA Division II Coaches' Poll (no. 16 St. Francis, RV Marian and no. 13 Huntington) with no. 7 Indiana Wesleyan looming later in January. However, there is no looking past Grace. Though their record is not overly impressive, they have shown that they can hang with the best in the nation. They nearly beat Indiana Wesleyan University, who at the time was no. 2 in the nation, but the Lancers lost on last-minute free throws. As mentioned earlier, they are coming off a win over no. 23 Ashford. The game will be played at Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on Grace's campus at Winona Lake, Ind. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.    
bookmark icon