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Bethel bags tourney title

ASKEWVILLE – It was the game that was most anticipated at the Eric Baggett Memorial Tournament.

And it lived up to its billing.

Bethel Christian Academy roared to an early lead and then held off Calvary Baptist Church School to win the tournament they host by a final of 75-70.

Shane Tripp led three Bethel players in double digits with 31 points while Kyle Freeman poured in 24 and Daniel Feher chipped in 10. Elijah Johnson led Calvary with 24 points.

Calvary, the 2009-10 North Carolina Christian Athletic Association state champion, finished 32-2 last season including a sweep of the season series with Bethel.

Saturday, however, it was all Bethel in the first quarter.

Calvary grabbed a 9-8 lead when Jeremy Cuthrell completed a three-point play at the 3:29 mark of the quarter, but they would only score one more point the rest of the period.

Tripp then took over the next few minutes of the game, scoring 12 points over the final two and a half minutes of the quarter. He had three successive hoops followed by a Freeman bucket.

Then Tripp scored a three-pointer and completed a three-point play in the final 47 seconds of the period as Bethel climbed to a 22-10 lead.

Calvary tried to rally as the second period started, scoring seven of the first nine points of the quarter thanks to a three-pointer by Brian Rice and buckets by Cuthrell and Rice as well answered only by a Tripp hoop as the visitors closed within 24-17.

Tripp, however, scored the next three points to push the lead back to double figures (27-17) with 5:35 to play in the first half.

Calvary then went on a 13-4 tear to close out the quarter as they closed within 31-30 at the intermission. Cuthrell and Johnson did all the scoring on the spurt as they were answered only by a hoop from Freeman and free throws by Feher and Tripp.

Bethel senior Marky Palmer started the second half with a hoop that was followed by a  bucket from Tripp as the home team pushed ahead 35-30, but Calvary erased that deficit with a three-pointer by Cuthrell and a hoop from Johnson as they tied the game at 35-all with 5:07 to play in the third quarter.

Bethel answered with a three-pointer from Tripp, but couldn’t pull away until late in the period when they went on a 7-2 run to close out the period. Tripp, Freeman, Palmer and Feher all had scores during the spurt answered only by a Johnson hoop as Bethel led 49-43 after three quarters.

The fourth and final period was a high scoring affair with Bethel recording 26 points and Calvary adding 27.

Calvary got off to a quick start with a pair of free throws from Johnson and a bucket by Cuthrell, but Feher responded with a free throw and Trey Hoggard had a bucket to give Bethel a five-point edge (52-47) with 7:02 to play.

After a Calvary free throw, the home-standing Eagles rolled off four straight buckets – two by Freeman and one each by Feher and Hoggard – as they extended the lead to 60-48 with 5:14 to go in the game.

Monk stopped the spurt with a three-pointer and then added a bucket to close the gap to seven (60-53) before a 6-0 run for the Eagles pushed it back to double figures. Tripp and Freeman scored the six points combined as the home team led 66-53 with just 3:16 to play.

Calvary mounted a furious comeback over the next two minutes and eventually closed the gap to 72-70 on a pair of Johnson free throws with just 37 seconds to play.

The Eagles, however, got a free throw from Tripp and a hoop from Freeman to seal the victory.

After the tournament, Tripp was named Most Valuable Player of the event and Freeman was tabbed on the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by Johnson and Cuthrell from Calvary as well as Kristopher Armstrong of Pungo Christian Academy (third place) and Max Stearn of Epiphany School.