More than half

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ASKEWVILLE – After a one-year absence, the Bethel Assembly Christian Academy varsity boys basketball team returned to the championship game of the Eric Baggett Memorial Basketball Tournament, and the Eagles made it pay off as they topped Ahoskie Christian 66-54.

The Warriors were making their first appearance in the tournament, and they made it count getting all the way to the title tilt.

Josh Bunch – who was named Most Valuable Player – led four Eagles players in double-figures in the victory, hitting for a tournament high 27 points.

“The guys worked hard, and that hard work paid off,” said an exuberant Bethel coach David Simmons. “We had good intensity and won this championship.”

Bethel Christian’s Paul Northcott (#1) battles Ahoskie Christian’s Nick Ellis for position to get a rebound in the boy’s varsity championship of the Eric Baggett Memorial Tournament from last weekend. Bethel won the contest 66-54. | William Anthony Photography

Ahoskie jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead thanks to a pair of jump shots from Damien Jones. But Bunch showed he knew a thing or two about a jump shot game as he buried back-to-back three-pointers to give the Eagles a lead they never would relinquish. Bunch’s explosion helped ignite a 12-0 run for the host team, and soon they had the Warriors reeling, and trailing, 14-6. Jaylen Freeman got a put back in the lane to break the Eagles’ string, but Bethel added a free throw just before the horn and led it 15-8 after the first quarter.

The onslaught from the Eagles didn’t stop. Bethel scored ten of the next 14 points to push that lead up to 25-12. Along the way, Bunch was fouled on a three-point attempt, and sank all three foul shots. But Ahoskie kept whittling away at the lead, finally getting it under double figures just before the halftime horn sounded, as the Eagles romped to their locker room ahead in the contest, 29-21.

Kyle Cullipher opened the second half with a trey to push Bethel back to a double-figure lead, but then Ahoskie got back-to-back jump shots of their own, though theirs was of the two-point variety, and the Warriors had the lead under double-digits once again, 32-25. Bunch buried a couple of free throws for Bethel before Ahoskie would mount a vicious comeback.

The Ahoskie coach tried to take advantage of his team’s size and began to pound the ball inside. Bethel started racking up fouls, which produced a marching line to the free throw line for ACS. As Ryan Blowe buried a pair, the Warriors had trimmed a once double-digit lead down to a single point with three minutes left in the quarter, 34-33.

But back came the Eagles. Cullipher stroked another three-pointer, then got three more field goals thanks to the help of his teammates, and suddenly, it was a 10-point lead again, 43-33. Jackson Perry got a put back for Ahoskie Christian just before the horn and the Warriors headed to the fourth and final frame trailing by eight, 43-35.

Bethel was glad to have had such a big lead, because Ahoskie had no quit. The Eagles watched their lead grow to its largest – 14 points – with a Bunch free throw that made it 55-41, Eagles. Ahoskie continued to chip away, but the clock was not on their side. A 7-0 spurt trimmed the Eagle lead down to seven points at 57-50, but that was as close as Ahoskie would make it. Coach Simmons put the ball in the hands of shooting guard Bunch and the Warriors turned into chasers, though they didn’t foul. Still Bethel made their field goals instead of heading to the charity stripe, and ended up winning by a dozen, 66-54. It was their first Baggett title in two years.

Both teams head off now to continue their regular season. Ahoskie Christian traveled to Mt. Calvary in league play in a game from Monday, but we have no final score. Meanwhile, Bethel had three more non-conference match-ups, beginning with Hobgood Academy before the Thanksgiving holiday break. The Eagles then return for games with New Bern Christian and The Albemarle School after the holiday. Bethel will not be participating in this year’s Nick Brantley Memorial in December.


Damien Jones-14, Ryan Blowe-12, Jaylen Freeman-10, Jackson Perry-9, Nick Ellis-9.


Josh Bunch-27, Kyle Cullipher-13, Mason Dunlow-12, Luke Doughtie-11, Brandon Ball-2, Paul Northcott-1.