Coming in to their match up with Southern Buckeye Conference American Division rival Western Brown, the Bethel-Tate girls basketball team was already facing plenty of adversity.
With post player Kendall Murphy already out for the year due to injury, the Lady Tigers lost their tallest remaining player, senior starter Cyra Jones, to a concussion in their win over Batavia on Jan. 17.
So as they prepared to tip off against the Lady Broncos last Thursday evening, the Lady Tigers could ill afford to get down to a bigger and deeper Western Brown squad.
Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, that was just what happened.
Using full court pressure defense, the Lady Broncos jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first minute and a half and never looked back as they rolled to a 68-45 conference victory.
“You go down nine nothing and we mentally broke down and we really never recovered from that,” Bethel coach Dave Fallis said. “We called a couple timeouts to calm things down and have a couple conversations. When you do that to a team a lot of times you can break their spirit pretty quickly.”
The Lady Broncos wasted no time jumping on the visitors from Clermont County as Kylie Garrett quickly nailed a 3-pointer just nine seconds in to the game.
And they just kept the tide rolling by beating the Lady Tigers at their own game — pushing the tempo.
Once Garrett’s shot sailed through the net, the Lady Broncos set up their full court pressure defense and quickly got the results they had hoped to.
Western Brown’s Elizabeth Carter stole the ball from Bethel as they tried to advance the ball against the press and found teammate Delayne Seigla for a layup to put the Lady Broncos up 5-0 about 30 seconds in.
After a missed Bethel shot, Western Brown pushed the ball again and, this time, Morgan Wright got into the action as her layup put the hosts on top 7-0 less than 40 seconds in.
Then Seigla did it herself as she stole the ball and went in for a layup. Her second basket of the game put the Lady Broncos up 9-0 with 6:29 left in the first quarter and forced Fallis to call timeout.
“We always stress that the first two minutes of the game are two of the most important minutes of the game (and) the first two minutes of the second half,” Fallis said. “We lost both those contests tonight.”
It looked as if the Lady Tigers were going to be able to withstand the Lady Broncos quick start as they settled down after Fallis called timeout.
Brooke Jenike hit a 3-pointer to get the Lady Tigers on the board before teammate Andi Lanigan converted a layup off a teammates drive and dish. The baskets quickly closed their deficit to four, 9-5.
Once Seigla answered with a 3-pointer for Western Brown, Jenike and Taylor Atkins hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the deficit to three, 12-9, with a little over four minutes left in the opening period.
It was at that point, however, when Garrett took over for the Lady Broncos.
She scored five straight points to push the Lady Broncos to an eight point lead before Carolin Baker’s pull-up jumper brought the Lady Tigers within six, 17-11, as the first quarter came to an end.
But while the Lady Tigers were starting to find some consistency offensively, they had no answer defensively for Garrett and her teammates.
As the second quarter began, Garrett, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, helped Western Brown add to their lead as she converted a layup and was fouled. Her foul shot put the Lady Broncos up 20-11.
However, Baker answered right back for the Lady Tigers as Bethel stayed within striking distance.
But, again, it was Garrett who answered as she drained a 3-pointer. Then, after the Lady Broncos forced a Lady Tigers miss, Garrett came down and hit a short jumper in the lane to put Western Brown up 25-13 with 5:24 left in the half.
With their tallest player standing 5-foot-6, the Lady Tigers had no answer for a determined Garrett. She scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“Kylie just played a whale of a game,” Fallis said. “She brought some intensity today that she didn’t have that first game we played. She came back and got our number today, that’s for sure.”
But the Lady Tigers continued to hang around. A Jenike 3-pointer kept the deficit in single digits, 25-16, with 4:20 left in the half.
The Lady Broncos, however, answered with five straight points as they pushed their lead to 30-16 with 3:46 left in the half.
Over the final three minutes of the half the teams both began to get out and run. They traded baskets on the final four possessions of the half as the Lady Broncos took a 37-24 lead into the break.
The second half opened in a similar fashion as the teams traded buckets the first two and a half minutes of the half.
It was at that point, however, where the Lady Broncos broke the game open.
A Garrett free throw and offensive rebound and putback got the Lady Broncos going before teammate Amber Dowd hit one of two free throws to increase the Western Brown lead to 45-28.
Jenike — who, along with Baker, scored a team best 12 points — momentarily halted the Lady Broncos with a driving layup to bring Bethel within 15, 45-30.
But Wright and Garrett quickly scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Lady Broncos up 49-30.
Though Kylie Sawyers answered for the Lady Tigers, another Garrett layup and an Elizabeth Carter free throw pushed the Lady Bronco lead to 20, 52-32 as the third quarter was winding down.
Western Brown took a page out of the Lady Tiger’s game plan to open their lead.
“We’re typically the team that runs, runs, runs. We had a smaller rotation of girls today because we’re missing a couple of girls and we got tired,” Fallis said. “If we’re not running and pushing the ball our halfcourt offense against bigger teams doesn’t produce a whole lot points.”
Bethel battled in the final quarter as they tried to cut into the Lady Bronco lead but could get no closer than 16 before Western Brown pulled away.
“We’re still building a program,” Fallis said. “If things turn out the way we’d like it to, this will be our second winning season in a row. So we’re still learning how to win.”
Bethel (8-6, 4-2 SBC-A) 45 Baker 6 0 12, Sawyers 1 0 2, Myers 0 0 0, Poe 1 0 2, Kilgore 0 0 0, Lanigan 4 0 8, Atkins 2 2 6, Jenike 5 0 12, Shinkle 1 1 3, Allen 0 0 0. Totals: 20 3 45.
Western Brown (11-4, 5-1 SBC-A) 68 Garrett 10 4 27, Henry 0 0 0, Wright 7 1 15, Carter 0 1 1, Seigla 7 0 15, Hall 0 0 0, Wiesenhahn 0 1 1, Dowd 1 4 6, Nickell 0 0 0, Fischer 0 0 0, Harvey 0 1 1, Leist 1 0 2. Total: 26 11 68.
Halftime: WB 37-24. 3-pointers: BT 2 (Jenike 2); WB 4 (Garrett 3, Seigla).