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Bethel avenges loss

AHOSKIE – In their first meeting, Bethel Christian Academy’s comeback attempt was thwarted.

Thursday night, the Eagles were able to finish their comeback effort as they edged Ridgecroft School 78-75 after trailing by six with less than three minutes to play.

“We finally came together as a team tonight,” Bethel Head Coach Joe Mizelle said. “The game could have gone either way.

“We have been battling injuries, including losing Josh Freeman for the season, but we hung together and won at Ridgecroft, which is a tough place to win,” he added. “We are clicking now and got balanced scoring tonight.”

The game was close until late in the third quarter when Ridgecroft (trailing 47-46 at the time) rolled off 11 unanswered points and surged into the lead.

James Taylor started the spurt for the Rams and was followed by consecutive hoops by Dillon Lowe. Senior Josh Morris then hit a deuce and a three-pointer back-to-back to push the Ridgecroft lead to 57-47.

Shannon Hoggard’s free throw to end the third quarter left the Rams with a 57-48 advantage heading into the final period.

That lead was quickly extended to 12 when Lowe opened the fourth quarter with a triple, but Bethel began to rally.

Michael Cseko hit a free throw before he and senior Stephen Miller scored back-to-back hoops for the Eagles. The run continued with buckets from Josh Caldwell and Miller as Bethel closed within 60-57.

Cade Larabee stopped the spurt when he hit a triple for the Rams, but Bethel responded with a Caldwell basket and three straight free throws from Miller to close the gap to 63-62 with 4:05 to play.

Logan Kinlaw’s three-pointer and a bucket by Austin Britton helped Ridgecroft to grab a six-point lead (68-62), but Bethel wouldn’t quit.

The Eagles scored on a free throw from Jim Perry and then got back-to-back scores from Miller and Caldwell to get within one (68-67) with 2:20 on the clock.

After a Morris free throw pushed the lead to two, Miller tied the game by hitting a pair of shots at the charity stripe, leaving things knotted at 69-all with 2:04 to play.

Bethel took the lead for the first time in more than 12 minutes when Caldwell scored moments later, but Morris deadlocked the score at 71-all with 1:21 to play.

Cseko had two free throws and Caldwell scored again to give the Eagles a 75-71 cushion with 45 ticks left on the clock.

Kinlaw scored for the Rams 10 seconds later, but Bethel got free throws from Miller and Jacob Tayloe to lead 78-73.

Morris hit two free throws on the other end with three seconds to play and then got off a shot to tie the game as time expired, but it didn’t connect.

Both teams had multiple double-digit performers. Cseko led Bethel with 27 points while Caldwell added 20 and Miller 19. Tayloe had 10 points for the Eagles.

Morris led all scorers with 31 points while Larabee had 12 points.

The game proved it was going to be a good one from the outset. In the opening quarter, Ridgecroft built a six-point lead thanks to a Morris triple and a Larabee bucket, but Bethel bounced back thanks to a three-pointer and hoop back-to-back from Tayloe and trailed by just one (18-17) at the end of the first quarter.

Neither team was able to build more than a four-point lead in the second quarter and the game was still a one-point affair (38-37) at the intermission.

“We built a big lead on full court pressure defense,” Ridgecroft’s Nathan Dilday said. “We stopped getting back on defense and Bethel made some lay-ups and came back. We missed some lay-ups and free throws that hurt us.”

Bethel (78): Michael Cseko n 27, Josh Caldwell n 20, Stephen Miller n 19, Jacob Tayloe n 10, Jim Perry n 1, Shannon Hoggard n 1

Ridgecroft (75): Josh Morris n 31, Cade Larabee n 12, Dillon Lowe n 9, James Taylor n 7, Austin Britton n 6, Logan Kinlaw n 5, Neal Howard n 3, Ethan Phelps – 2