BETHEL — A tough stretch of games continued for the Western Brown Lady Broncos earlier this week. After losses to Glen Este and Kings, Western Brown traveled to Bethel for a cross division bout with the Lady Tigers.
The game would be quite the back-and-forth battle, but in the end Western Brown escaped with a 47-46 victory.
Julia Jenike missed the game for Bethel, as she was still nursing an ankle injury suffered in December. However, her team still put together a solid offensive effort in the first quarter, going on a 9-0 run over two-and-a-half minutes to take an 11-3 lead.
The offense struggled from there. The Lady Broncos scored the final four points of the first quarter, and entered the second trailing 11-7. Western Brown then went on a run, scoring 10 straight points to begin the second quarter. Allison Parks hit a three-point shot for Bethel with 5:11 left before halftime to break the skid.
Western Brown had struggled with Bethel’s press at times early in the first quarter, but head coach Dennis Overstake said the team didn’t do anything special to break the slump.
“It wasn’t anything that we changed, we just slowed down and executed what we practiced,” Overstake said. “Last week we faced the same type of press against Kings. We just had to slow down and take our time.”
Bethel head coach Dave Fallis, meanwhile, also attributed the press to his team’s struggles in the first half. Fallis said the team stuck with the press too long, something they could not afford to do given their short bench.
“We stayed in it too long,” Fallis said. “We’re not that deep on the bench and we got tired. We’re good at that for two or three minutes at a time and sometimes that’s the only way we can score, since our half-court offense is a little lethargic. We have to know when to get out of it. I have a tendency to stay into it a bit long.”
The Lady Broncos continued their offensive attack, going on another 6-0 run before Haylee Foster answered with another three-pointer just before halftime. Western Brown out-scored Bethel 16-6 in the quarter to take a 23-17 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the teams traded baskets until Foster went on a tear. In a span of less than a minute, Foster hit a two-point shot, drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key and stole a ball from the Lady Broncos, leading to another two-point basket. The seven-point burst turned a six-point Bethel deficit into a one-point lead.
Fallis said he was thrilled with how she played throughout the game, and added he hoped it would carry over for the rest of the season.
“I am so happy for her,” Fallis said. “I hope she has all the confidence she should have. She’s going to help our team going forward when we get back to league play. She’s capable of doing that every night and it was really neat to see her come into this gym tonight and put her team in position to win.”
Western Brown sophomore Cana Kleemeyer would drive the baseline and convert, drawing a foul and injuring her wrist in the process. Lexi Ring hit the free-throw to put the Lady Broncos ahead 35-33 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Broncos led by as much as four points with 1:23 to go, but a three-point shot by Parks cut the team’s lead to 44-43. Western Brown senior Hannah Sininger then hit a pair of free-throws to push the team’s lead back to three points at 46-43.
Foster answered again, drilling a three-point shot to tie the game at 46. Western Brown got the ball back, and with 2.7 seconds left in the game Sininger drew a foul from Haley Taylor. Sininger hit the second free-throw, and Bethel’s long lob to mid-court was stolen by Ring to seal the Western Brown victory.
Foster finished the game with 16 points to lead both teams. Parks chipped in 13 points while Morgan Reinhart added nine. Overstake said that while Jenike missing the game certainly helped, Parks and Foster played very well.
“Having their best player out of the lineup makes a difference,” Overstake said. “It helped us tremendously but [Parks and Foster] stepped up and filled that gap.”
Overstake said his defense needed to do a better job covering the duo, adding that his squad has to be able to contest every shot they take.
“We didn’t do a very good job of covering our defensive responsibilities,” Overstake said. “They’re both good shooters, if you don’t stay up in them and contest every shot they take, they’re going to knock shots down like that.”
Western Brown was led offensively by Mackenzie Brooks, who scored 13 points. Sininger scored 11 while Ring added nine and Shaffer eight. That balanced scoring attack is something Overstake wants to see more often.
“That’s what we have to have every night,” Overstake said.
For Bethel, the game was their second contest in three days. Fallis said his team had been working hard to recover from the week-and-a-half long break between games, and fatigue began to set in.
“We were fatigued,” Fallis said. “Yesterday we took a day off, it was our first day off in nine days. We had to give it to them. It’s exam week and two of our kids are sick and they showed up to play. No excuses, because we have to play through it, but that led to some bad decisions. We lost it mentally a couple times.”
Both the Lady Tigers and Lady Broncos are back in action for non-league games on Saturday, Jan. 16. Western Brown travels to McNicholas High School for a 2 p.m. contest while Bethel welcomes Eastern for a 2:30 p.m. bout. Both teams will return to league play on Thursday, Jan. 21 when Western Brown travels to Goshen and Bethel hosts Georgetown.