STERLING —The painful lesson learned Saturday for the Bethany College men is that you have to play hard at both ends of the court.
The Swedes’ season-long inability to get stops on the defensive end finally did them in at the most inopportune time, as Sterling outscored Bethany 89-77 in the semifinals of the KCAC Postseason Tournament.
The Warriors were hoping to get some help from Friends, but the No. 1-seed Falcons were upset on their homecourt by Tabor 90-81 Saturday, which means the winner of Monday night’s game in Wichita between Sterling and Tabor goes on to nationals along with Friends, which already has qualified by virtue of winning the regular season.
Had Friends won Saturday, Monday’s championship game in actuality would have been nothing more than an exhibition game.
Bethany was right with Sterling in the first half, down just 39-36, but the Swedes’ Achilles’ heel reared its ugly head again in the second half as the Warriors shredded them for 50 points. The Swedes were next-to-last this season in the KCAC in defense.
The key to the game was the Warriors’ defensive work on Bethany superstar Idris IbnIdris, who was held to just 12 points, 15 under his average. He was just 4 of 14 from the field and the Swedes as a team were only 27 of 69, 6 of 24 from 3, where they made 15 just two days earlier.
Kirby Hawkins and Jordan Bieberle led Bethany with 16 points apiece. Vincent Roybal, back in the lineup after being out with a concussion, chipped in with 14.
The Warriors had four players in double figures, led by Darius Alexander and Braden Thompson with 17 apiece.
Sterling was just 6 of 23 from beyond the arc after making 12 of 25 against McPherson, but inside the 3 it was on fire, going 27 of 43.
Bethany ended its year with a sparkling 20-11 record in what was a turnaround season. Among the seniors that will need to be replaced are IbnIdris, Roybal and Dwight Abad, but Swede coach Clair Oleen has been a master of recruiting transfers and no doubt will have the Swedes in the thick of the hunt again next year as many key players return as well, led by Hawkins and Bieberle.
Bethany (77) — McLin 7, IbnIdris 12, Abad 7, Smith 1, Hawkins 16, Bieberele 16, Hays 4, Roybal 14.
Sterling (89) — Adesodun 13, Alexander 17, Thompson 4, Thompson 17, Givens 9, Swank 8, Dower 6, T. Smith 10, Starks 4, B. Smith 1.