MERRY HILL – A healthy rivalry is fast developing in Bertie County.
When Bethel Christian Academy paid a visit to Lawrence Academy Thursday night, it was the second meeting of the year between the two schools and the second time both squads put on a showcase.
After it was over, both Warrior coach Tommy Tripp and Bethel basketball boss Joe Mizelle were pleased with their team’s effort, pleased with the camaraderie of their teams and exhausted.
In a game that featured a dozen lead changes and 141 total points, Lawrence held off the Eagles 73-68 to secure the season sweep of BCA.
“They are a very well-coached team and I have the highest respect for them,” Tripp said of Bethel. “They hustle 100 percent of the time. Josh Freeman is an outstanding three-pointer shooter.”
For his part, Mizelle was equally pleased with what he saw.
“I can’t say that anybody played poorly,” the coach said. “It’s always fun to play Lawrence. It’s just good fellowship.”
Both teams entered the contest minus a key starter as Larry Caldwell missed his second straight game for Bethel and Michael Cseko was missing from the Warrior’s starting five.
The missing components found replacements, however, as Joe Harrell had an outstanding game coming off the bench for the Warriors and Stephen Miller played his best game of the season for the Eagles.
In the opening period, the Eagles edged ahead 3-2 only to see Alex Hodges score from the free throw line and Judd Whitehead to bomb in a triple as the Warriors went ahead 6-3.
Back-to-back hoops from Freeman and Frank Feher put Bethel ahead by one and they stayed in that position with a 9-8 lead after one quarter.
Freeman extended the advantage by hitting a triple barely 15 seconds into the second quarter, but the Warriors answered with an old-fashioned three-point play from Hodges and a triple from Marshall Ellis as they edge back in front 14-12.
Three straight scores n one each from Miller, Feher and Josh Askew n gave Bethel an 18-14 edge.
Lawrence whittled the lead down to two (30-28) and then got a triple from Whitehead and a deuce by Chad Oliver to help take a 33-32 lead at the intermission.
The third quarter saw the Warriors edge out in front by three (53-50) at the quarter’s end thanks to a field goal from Ellis with 27 seconds to play in the period.
Lawrence extended the lead to five (57-52), but Bethel came back with consecutive hoops by Askew and Miller to get within 57-56 and then tied the score at 58-all with 5:13 to play in the contest.
Lawrence used a triple from Ellis to take a one-point advantage. Miller, however, scored with 1:27 to play to get the Eagles in front.
Whitehead hit a hoop and two free throws to get Lawrence back out in front 69-66 before Freeman cut the advantage to one with 26 ticks left on the clock. Whitehead and Gray Harrell hit free throws with under 20 seconds to play to seal the Lawrence win.
“I was pleased with our play,” Mizelle said after the game. “Overall, I thought Stephen Miller had his best game. If he played like that every night, we wouldn’t lose many.”
Mizelle was also complimentary of the play of Freeman, who had 24 points for the Eagles, and Feher, who had an outstanding night on the boards and the inside play of Jonathan Hoggard.
For his part, Tripp praised the play of Joe Harrell, who came off the bench to score eight points.
“Joe hit two key threes and Chad Oliver had some good rebounds,” Tripp said. “Each player participated. It was a team effort. That was fun.”
Lawrence (73): Judd Whitehead n 31, Marshall Ellis n 20, J. Harrell n 8, A. Hodges n 7, C. Oliver n 4, G. Harrell n 3
Bethel (68): Stephen Miller n 25, Josh Freeman n 24, F. Feher n 8, J. Hoggard n 6, J. Askew – 5