NEW MADISON – If you love the purity of high school basketball then the place to be Friday night was at The Battleground with the Bethel Bees taking on Tri-Village.
The place was electric and loud. It was a game that wasn’t decided until the very end. The cheering was non-stop.
Fortunately for the home crowd Tri-Village survived the invasion of the Bees when a half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim to win by the score of 53-51 for a huge Cross County Conference victory.
Bethel jumped out to the early lead 6-2 before the PATS responded and grabbed the lead 7-6 for the first time on an old-fashioned three by Trace Couch.
The Bees countered with a fielder inside from 6-foot 7-inch senior Evan Hawthorne, a drive to the hoop from Caleb South and a layup from Tyler Terry to go up 12-7.
TV answered the run with a triple from senior guard Tyler VanWinkle to close to 12-10.
Bethel closed the first quarter on a trey in the corner from Nate Rimkus to go up 16-10.
The six-point lead represented the largest lead by either team. TV went up six in the third quarter only to see Bethel go back up six early in the final stanza.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed throughout, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats the entire night.
It also was a game of matchups with Bethel standout sophomore guard Caleb South verses senior Tyler VanWinkle for Tri-Village.
South would end the game as high scorer for both teams with 22 points … while VanWinkle would be high man for Tri-Village with 21 points.
“That kid (South) loves challenges, and he has a lot of respect for VanWinkle for what he accomplished in his career, and he was up for the challenge tonight. He’s not afraid of anybody and once he got in the groove early he’s hard to stop,” Bethel boys basketball coach Brett Kopp said.
The other matchup on the floor was Evan Hawthorne going toe-to-toe with Tri-Village post player Trace Couch. Couch would end the game with 14 points and Hawthorne with nine.
It was frustrating for TV to only have its big man on the floor for about half the game.
“When Trace is in the game he does good things for us. He’s picking up silly fouls early in the game, many 90 feet away from the basket … he has got to get more mature in understanding how to not pick up those type of fouls,” a frustrated Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester said.
Couch scored six points in the second quarter along with VanWinkle as the Patriots trailed Bethel at the half 27-25.
With the scored tied at 29 in the third quarter Tri-Village went on a run with two inside from Couch, a baseline jumper from VanWinkle and finish at the rim by Knox Morris to go up 35-29.
The Bees buzzed back with a strong finish in the quarter by South scoring seven points to help Bethel regain the lead 38-36 heading into the final stanza.
In the final stanza South took the game to another level as the young sophomore scored 11 points.
“South is a good player and a gutty kid who made some clean shots in the fourth quarter,” Sagester said.
But VanWinkle led a spirited Patriot charge as well scoring eight points including a big triple (his fourth of the night) at the 2:22 mark to regain the lead for TV 48-46 that the Patriots wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Gavin Richards extended the lead to 50-46 with 1:08 to go, and Bethel needed a timeout.
But the Bees wouldn’t go away as South connected on his only triple in the game with 24 second to go to cut the margin to 52-51.
The Patriots got a free throw and then survived a half-court attempt from Tyler Terry that hit the back of the rim to win the game 53-51.
“It was a heck of a game, a great atmosphere and both teams going at it with a spirited effort … but our kids made some plays in the end to get the win,” Sagester said.
The night got even better for Tri-Village when the news spread throughout gym that Mississinawa Valley had went into Casstown and came away with a 59-50 win over Miami East, letting the Patriots slip back into a tie at the top of the league with the Vikings.
But the Patriots had to earn the win against a very tough and determined Bethel team to be in that position.
“Bethel played very hard and inspired and at times did some things to us that haven’t been done before so give them credit. They played one heck of a basketball game,” Sagester said.
First-year Bethel coach Brett Kopp acknowledged the play from Tri-Village as well.
“We knew Tri-Village would go hard. That’s what they always do, and Josh is a great coach, and his kids played hard … but we matched that tonight and exceeded that in some areas,” he said.
“From the moment I got job as the coach here at Bethel all I wanted was for the kids to play hard, and everything else will come into play, and if you play hard we will win ball games, and they bought into that.
“We’re getting better along with playing hard. Tonight was one of the best efforts I have ever seen in both football and basketball. These kids put it all on the line. We are young, and we are going be a force to be reckoned with in the future,” Kopp concluded.
Tri-Village was led by VanWinkle with 21 points, Couch 14 and Richards with 10.
TV improved to 17-3 overall and 10-1 in the conference with one remaining conference game with Ansonia. A win there would assure the Patriots of a share of the CCC crown.
The Patriots host Coldwater in a big non-league game today.
Bethel was led by South’s 22 points, and Hawthorne added nine. The Bees fell to 14-5 and 7-3 in the conference and will square off with Newton on Tuesday.
Tri-Village junior varsity defeated Bethel by the score of 49-25 and was led by Jared Buckley with 20 points and Christian Ricker with 17. The JV team improved to 15-3 overall and 10-1 in the conference and with a win on Tuesday at Ansonia would assure at least a share of the CCC title.
Score by quarters:
TV….10…15…11…17 – 53
BE….16…11…11…13 – 51
Tri-Village (17-3, 10-1)
Knox Morris 2, Tyler VanWinkle 21, Jonny Wilson 2, Brett Boyter 4, Gavin Richards 10, Trace Couch 14 – Totals 4-13-13/24 – 53
Bethel (14-5, 7-3)
Tyler Terry 6, Caleb South 22, Nate Rimkus 6, Christian White 2, Evan Hawthorne 9, Jacob Evans 6 – Totals 3-18-6/11 – 51
TV – 4 (VanWinkle 4)
BE – 3 (Rimkus 2, South 1)