Pilots down Marian 67-52 in Crossroads Tournament

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The Bethel College men's basketball team scored a huge win over Marian on Wednesday night 67-52 in the opening round of the Crossroads League tournament.With the win, the Pilots have all but locked up at least an at-large bid to the NAIA National Tournament. However, the Pilots have their sights set on a higher goal - winning a conference title. First, though, they had to deal with a tough Marian team who the Pilots narrowly beat out for the no. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
Junior guard Matt Schauss goes in for a layup against Marian.
Junior guard Matt Schauss goes in for a layup against Marian.
The game got off to a rough start for the Pilots with Marian jumping out to an early 17-7 lead. The Pilots had only one bucket from the field in the first eight minutes of the game. Poor shooting would be a theme of the first half for the Pilots. The Knights held a commanding lead for much of the first half, but a late Pilot run closed the gap. At halftime, Marian led 30-27. Coach Lightfoot must have had a rousing halftime speech, because the Pilots came out with a newfound intensity in the second half. A jumper from senior Pat Oetting gave the Pilots their first lead of the game 32-30 two minutes into the second half. Oetting would have his best game of the season when it mattered most. The Pilots played well, but they could not stretch their lead to more than five midway through the second half. That's when the Pilots turned it to another gear. The seniors led the charge for the Pilots as Oetting, Landon Booker and Ryan Benner all had important shots to stretch the lead to 11 with 6:22 left in the game. That was when Benner and Oetting opened the game open. Benner nailed a three to give the Pilots a 12-point lead, then Oetting had a thunderous slam dunk the next time down the court to make it a 14-point margin and send the Wiekamp Wackos into a frenzy. A few minutes later, Oetting would dunk again to put the exclamation point on the game for the Pilots as they went on to win by 15. The Pilots definitely made a statement as they won despite a horrible first half and a stingy Marian defense. It was a tough, grinding type of win, but that is how the Crossroads League plays. Oetting had a monster game with 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for a double-double. Benner led the Pilots in scoring with 19 while sharpshooter Zach Miller added 16 points. Matt Schauss led the team in assists with seven. The Pilots side of the bracket went as expected with both favored teams winning. Bethel will face off against no. 1 seed Indiana Wesleyan (IWU) in Marion on Saturday. On the other side of the Crossroads League bracket, upsets were the story of the night. no. 7 seed Spring Arbor shocked no. 2 seed St. Francis 63-55 while no. 6 seed Grace hung on to defeat no. 3 seed Huntington 56-54. The winner of Bethel/IWU will play the winner of Spring Arbor/Grace for the conference title next week. Tip-off for the Pilots' semifinal matchup against IWU is at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
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