FREDERICKTOWN – The Beth-Center High School boys basketball team was backed into a must-win situation Friday night, needing a victory to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Thanks to a couple big runs in the middle quarters, the Bulldogs are headed to the postseason after defeating Bentworth 69-64 in a WPIAL Section 5-AA contest.
The Bulldogs almost saw a 15-point fourth-quarter lead disappear as Bentworth (4-10, 7-14) made it a three-point game on a three-pointer from John Flory with 12 seconds remaining. But Beth-Center (6-8, 10-11), which struggled from the free-throw line all night, made a few clutch free-throws down the stretch to secure the game.
“It was a big win,” said Beth-Center head coach Gary Amos. “We found a way to make it interesting, but we did what we had to down the stretch to win.”
Bentworth, which need a win to make the playoffs and was eliminated from postseason contention, came out hot and took a 10-4 lead halfway through the first quarter behind some good three-point shooting. Beth-Center responded with 23-8 run over the next 10 minutes to take a 29-24 lead at halftime.
But the Bearcats wouldn’t go away. They started the third quarter with a 17-6 run that put them up 41-35.
Cody Levine nearly shot the Bearcats to victory as he scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter, including knocking down consecutive three-pointers on three straight Bentworth possessions.
But Beth-Center turned the game around behind the play of sophomore guard Ryan Beyer.
Beyer stopped the Bentworth run by scoring nine consecutive points, including a pair of three-pointers that sparked a 16-4 Beth-Center surge that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
“That was a big point in the game,” Amos said. “That was the first time all game that Ryan shot the ball, and he stepped up and made some plays when we needed him.”
The victory appeared to be secured by B-C when the Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run for a seemingly comfortable 60-45 advantage. But, suddenly, the Bulldogs stopped taking care of the basketball and making free throws. Bentworth chipped away and pulled within one possession, but Beyer and Zach Miller each made a free throw to end the game.
“(Making the playoffs) means a lot,” said the Miller, a senior who surpassed 700 career rebounds. “I’m almost speechless. It is nice to begin and end my career by going to the playoffs.”
Bentworth coach Bob Kennedy was not available for comment immediately after the game.
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Adam Walters with 17 points. Miller had 13 points, Beyer 12 and Anthony Gilpin 11.
Levine led the Bentworth attack while Chris Blackburn chipped in with 20 points.
“We have some work to do,” Amos said. “We have to take better care of the basketball and start making our free throws, but it was a big win and I am proud of the effort.”