Eric Baggett Memorial Tournament

Published 9:38 am Thursday, November 20, 2014

ASKEWVILLE – Their coach reminded them in pre-game that the school had won the inaugural tournament and that it would be good to win another.

Good thing his players were listening to him.

Bethel Assembly Christian Academy fought off a ferocious comeback by TEACH (The Eastern Association of Christian Homeschoolers), and then held on for a 57-54 victory to win their second Eric Baggett Memorial Basketball Tournament held here last weekend.

Alex Lanier scored back-to-back baskets, including the last one on a three-point play, to secure the lead for the Eagles in the fourth quarter.  Lanier’s heroics coming after TEACH had fought back from a 14-point deficit to lead headed into the fourth quarter.  Lanier finished with 27 points, tied for top scoring honors with TEACH’s Avery Bowen.

Bethel had won the first-ever tournament in 2010, originated by former BACA coach Joe Mizelle, as a way to keep alive the legacy of Eric Baggett, a former Bethel student-athlete who died in a tragic car accident. His parents, Mark and Debra Baggett, led the tournament.

In the championship game Bethel scored the first seven points in a row and 12 of the first 13 as Lanier had seven points to open the scoring.  TEACH cut the deficit to five at 12-7 just before the end of the first quarter.

Down six (13-7) as the second stanza began, TEACH got a quick jumper from Shyrell Jeffries to get within four at 13-9 before Lanier buried a long-range three-pointer.  TEACH then went on a 4-0 run to get within three at 16-13 before Lanier began bombing away again.  A field goal and two foul shots added by Wayne Wall and Bethel were back in front by ten, 23-13. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter and the halftime horn sounded with BACA in front, 27-19.

A 7-2 run that opened the second half bulged Bethel’s lead to 34-21 and after Trent Davidson sank a pair of free throws, Bethel had its biggest lead of the night – 14 points – at 37-23.

But that’s when TEACH’s offense woke up and the Trailblazers’ defense stepped up.  A 9-0 run pulled them within five before Bethel’s Josh Bunch got a put back.  Another Blazers’ run – this time for seven points – pulled them within two at 40-38 and as the final seconds of the quarter ticked away, Bowen rose and clanged in a three-pointer from near half-court and TEACH had the lead going into the fourth quarter, 41-40.

The final frame opened with both teams exchanging baskets before Lanier got loose underneath.  First he had a lay-up and then was fouled for a conventional three-point play.  The scoring put Bethel back in front 46-43 and from there BACA coach Mark Hoggard played it deliberately.  With Lanier and Wall scoring in the paint, Bethel kept pounding it inside as the smaller Blazers couldn’t stop them. A baseline lay-up from Lanier gave Bethel a five-point lead, 52-47.

TEACH refused to roll-over and just quit, as they got back within three (54-51) before Wall and Trey Hoggard hit free throws to push it back to five at 56-51. As the final minute ticked away, Zach Paramore canned a three-pointer that brought TEACH within two, 56-54.  Josh Bunch was fouled with eight seconds remaining and made one-of-two foul shots.  TEACH’s desperation heave was off the mark and as Bethel secured the rebound, they were able to celebrate their second Baggett title in five years.

During closing ceremonies, Evangelist Mark Baggett thanked everyone who supported the event and invited everyone to return next year.

“We pray to keep growing our tournament, and giving more scholarships,” said Baggett.

Six student-athletes were 2014 recipients of the Eric Baggett Scholarship:  Sydney Brabble of Lawrence Academy, Madison Burch of Northeast Academy, Will Edwards of Northeast Academy, Heather Farmer of Bethel, Trey Hoggard of Bethel and Brendan Steiner of Ridgecroft School.  Brabble, Burch and Steiner each won a $750 scholarship for college.