After a sluggish start out of the gate, the Bethel College women's basketball team found their groove and never looked back, cruising to a 77-59 victory over Grace College in the opening round of the Crossroads League Tournament.
The Lady Pilots bumbled their way through the first 5 minutes of the game and trailed 10-4 until four consecutive three-pointers founds their mark in a 2 minute stretch to give Bethel a 16-10 lead, a margin that would never get closer the rest of the way. On this night, it was BC's bench that provided the big spark as Alyshia Harvey, Chrissy Hooks, Baysia Cox and Ashley Lutz brought the BC ladies out of their brief lapse early.
Meanwhile, Crossroads League Player-of-the-year Laura Johnson simply took over the game, scoring 16 of her game-high 21 points in the first half, including 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Johnson finished the game with 5 three-pointers, pushing her to 101 made trifectas on the year, putting her 2nd in the nation for 3's made.
Baysia Cox finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds, but they were all in the first half as her put-back with 2 seconds remaining gave Bethel a 38-25 lead at the intermission. Bethel was grossly outrebounded, but forced 17 first half Grace turnovers and managed to scorch the nets for 50% from the floor (14-28).
The second half was much of the same but this time it was Kristen Hicks who took things over for BC. Hicks scored all 13 of her points in the second half, many in dazzling fashion as Bethel's lead swelled to as many as 24 points, 66-42 with 6:55 remaining. Bethel cleared their bench with just over 5 minutes remaining as their 8 seniors left the floor for what could very well be their final game in the Wiekamp Center.
The Lady Pilots finished with 9 three-pointers made and shot 47% from the field for the game (29-62), while holding Grace to just 38% and forcing 32 Lancer turnovers.
"Tonight's win was a good start to our postseason," said Bethel Coach Jody Martinez. "I thought overall we did pretty good on defense by forcing 32 turnovers and I thought we moved the ball well on offense. We had a slow start to the game but I was very happy with the bench coming in and giving us a big momentum spark. Laura Johnson shot well in the first half and Baysia Cox also had a great first half for us off the bench. Kristen Hicks played well in the second half scoring all of her 13 points and it was very nice to be able to play all 15 players tonight as this might have been our last home game of the season," added Martinez. "We will need to do a better job of hitting our free-throws and lay-ups this Friday night at #4 nationally ranked University of St. Francis if we want to have any chance of moving onto the championship game next Monday."
The Lady Pilots, ranked #13 in the latest NAIA DII national poll, improve to 25-6 on the season and head to USF Friday for Crossroads League semi-final action.