By Robbie Lightfoot, Bethel Sports Information
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score) Bethel College (Ind.) punched its first ticket into the quarterfinals since 2009 as they defeated College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 67-64 in the thrilling second round game in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship. The 2014 event is being played at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.
Bethel flew out to a quick 11-4 advantage before the Bobcats went on a commanding 11-0 run, capped off with a three-pointer from Derek Daniels to claim a 15-11 lead with 13:23 remaining in the first half.
College of the Ozarks increased its lead to eight (23-15) with 9:26 remaining after a basket by Cameron Paschke, but the Pilots owned the final seven minutes of play using a 20-4 spurt featuring a bucket at the buzzer from Bethel’s Michael Mislan to capture a 37-27 lead at intermission.
Both teams struggled from the field in the opening stanza as College of the Ozarks connected on 32% from the field on 10-of-31 shooting including 31% from beyond the arc (4-of-13). Bethel shot 36% from the field on 15-of-42 attempts hitting only 2-of-13 attempts from downtown.
The Pilots connected on a three-pointer from Zach Miller in the early going of the final half to give Bethel a 40-27.
A scary scene unfolded as Bethel senior Patrick Oetting blocked a shot attempt and fell hard on the ground becoming motionless. He was immediately assisted by College of the Ozarks athletic training and medical personnel where he was taken to a local hospital.
Teams were allowed an additional two minutes to warm up after the ten minutes delay in action.
The Pilots were in shock after Oetting’s absence as the Bobcats rallied for an 11-4 run to climb to within three (44-41) with 12:07 to play. Minutes later, the Bobcats found themselves down 46-45 after a trey from Paschke.
It was a fight to the finish for both squads as neither team was able to claim more than a three-point advantage over their opponent until a three-pointer from Bethel’s Ryan Benner put his squad up 62-58 with 2:22 left to play.
The Bobcats quickly responded with a basket from Nathane Simniok to climb back to within two. The next Bethel possession would see the Pilots wind down the clock before Benner connected with Mislan for an easy bucket to go back up 64-60 with 36 seconds remaining.
College of the Ozarks connected with a quick bucket from Sontiago with 29 ticks remaining to again make it a two-point ballgame at 64-62. The Bobcats fouled Bethel’s Matt Schauss, who calmly converted on both of his charity tosses to make it a 66-62 ballgame. C of O once again got a clean look at a basket to crawl right back to two with just 15 seconds left. The Bobcats again fouled Schauss, who connected on the first, but missed to make it still a one possession game. Ozarks put the ball into the hands of Derek Daniels who’s three-point attempt was off the mark giving the Pilots the 67-64 victory.
“We definitely had to fight through some adversity,” stated Bethel College head coach Mike Lightfoot. “We had a senior make a great play and it’s never good when you see something like that happen. It was great to see how our kids responded in such a great atmosphere. We didn’t shoot the ball well at all, but got the stops we needed defensively to get over the hump.”
The Pilots were led by Benner who scored a game-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds. Schauss added 20 points and seven rebounds in the winning effort.
The Bobcats (22-11) placed three players in double-figures led by Santiago’s 18 points and nine rebounds. Paschke finished 14 points while Simniok chipped in ten.
Bethel improves its record to 28-7 on the season and will face No. 10 Midland University (Neb.) in Saturday’s quarterfinal at 5:00pm.