#2 Bethel (Ind.) punches the first ticket into the Final Four as they hold off a furious Bellevue (Neb.) comeback and win 82-77. The Pilots advance to their fifth semifinals but first since the 1999 season. The 18th annual event is being held at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
Bethel controlled the first half, shooting 64% from the field and 83% from the three-point line (5-of-6). The Pilots were dominant on the glass as well with a 23-11 advantage on the boards. All-American William Walker and Ryne Lightfoot led the way with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Leading 51-26 at the half, Bethel pushed the lead to as much as 29 early in the second half and led 63-38 after another Lightfoot three-pointer. Back came Bellevue, however, as the Bruins began to chip away behind their aggressive defense and clutch shooting. The Bruins were within 10 with five minutes left and after a Ron King three-pointer, his third of the second half, Bellevue cut it two (73-71) with just over two minutes left.
The teams traded baskets over the next 90 seconds until a basket by Kyle Prochaska put Bellevue down just one, 78-77, with 16 seconds left. A Bruins foul put Walker at the line and the senior hit both free throws to put Bethel up three. Bellevue came down and missed on a three-pointer in which Bethel controlled the rebound and was immediately fouled. Pilots forward Tyler Brown iced the game with two free throws and earned the 82-77 win.
William Walker led Bethel with another double-double, his third of the tournament, with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Tyler Brown scored 20 points, 14 in the second half. Ryne Lightfoot and Wes Laidig were also in double figures with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Bethel shot 56% for the game, 70% from beyond the arc and ended the game with a 40-30 advantage on the boards.
Bellevue was led by Kyle Prochaska with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ron King scored 18 for the Bruins, including five three-pointers that helped ignite the second half comeback. Jerrod Tucker chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds. After shooting just 33% in the first half, Bellevue came back with 51% in the second and ended at 44% for the game. The Bruins end the season with a 24-9 record.
Bethel (33-3) advances to play in the Final Four on Monday, March 16 at 8:00 pm. They will face the winner of #6 Indiana Wesleyan or College of the Ozarks (Mo.). The 32-team, single elimination tournament concludes March 17, 2009 at 8:50 p.m. The final will be televised live on CBS College Sports.