However, things seem to be looking up for the Bulldogs as they beat New Richmond on Jan. 7 and put together their first two-game winning streak of the season with a 45-40 win over Bethel-Tate on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
“We’re taking care of the ball a little better [over the last two games],” Batavia head coach Mike Hatfield said after the Bethel game. “We’ll take a three-, or four-, or five-minute period and stop playing, stop rebounding, start watching and standing around. We’re shortening that up a little bit and it’s making a difference.”
While you could argue that the Bulldogs were taking off the first quarter of their game against Bethel based upon looking at the box score, that wouldn’t be the case. The Bulldogs were doing a good job of running their offense and getting open looks, but they couldn’t get the shots to fall.
“It’s been a few days where we’re struggling to shoot it,” Hatfield explained. “We are getting good looks consistently and we’re just not finishing.”
As Batavia fought their own bugaboos, Bethel-Tate jumped out to an early lead after missing some open looks themselves.
“Every offensive possession we’re looking for a high-percentage shot and I thought we got those early,” Bethel head coach Craig Stork said.
The Tigers showed a balanced attack in the opening quarter during which four of the five starters were able to convert a field goal, giving Bethel an 8-4 lead through the first period.
Coach Hatfield subbed in Dwayne Smith late in the first quarter and his quick first step and athleticism gave the Bulldogs the spark they needed.
“He always gives us a spark,” Hatfield said. “He goes hard to the basket and plays hard on defense.”
With Smith giving the Bulldogs that jolt, both teams started to get into a more fluid pace, trading baskets as the lead changed hands four times in the last two minutes of the half.
The Bulldogs switched to a trapping zone defense toward the end of the half that stymied the Bethel offense a bit, allowing Batavia to take a 15-14 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
Trailing by one, the Tigers ran a nice offensive set that allowed sophomore guard Layne Cherry to get open on the right wing for an open three-pointer, which he buried to give Bethel a 17-15 halftime lead.
The Tigers were able to hold their own on the boards in the first half against the bigger front line of Batavia, something Stork was trying to stress to his players as well as patience on the offensive end.
“When you’re post players are sometimes under six feet, all five guys have to work together and box their man out every time,” Stork said. “We don’t want to jack up quick shots when no one’s ready to rebound. We want to make sure we take care of the ball and get good shooters taking good shots.”
Bethel did a pretty good job of doing just that in the first half, but as the game wore on, the Bulldogs seemed to be figuring out a better way to attack the Tigers’ defense, taking advantage of their size on the low blocks by rebounding better.
“We let them have a few [rebounds] offensively early on that we weren’t too happy about.” Hatfield said, “but as a whole, I think we out-rebounded them.”
The second half started similarly to how the first half ended – with both teams getting some good looks, swapping baskets.
A back-and-forth third frame ended with Batavia holding the lead for the first time at the end of a quarter following an Alex White elbow jump shot that put the Bulldogs up 27-26.
Trailing 28-27, Batavia built a five-point lead at beginning of the fourth quarter on the strength of a David Pelphrey and-one and a Kyle Schmitgen three-pointer on back-to-back trips down the floor.
Bethel’s junior guard Tyler Atkins did his best to keep his team in the game, getting to the basket and drawing fouls, closing the gap to 33-30 with just over four and a half minutes remaining.
Bethel tried to ratchet up their defensive pressure and deflected a pass with 4:25 remaining, causing the ball to fly straight at a referee. The referee instinctively caught the ball and then dropped it, but not before blowing his whistle, stopping the play in which a Bethel defender had grabbed the ball with an open lane to the basket.
“[The referee] said it was an inadvertent whistle, so they went to the jump ball and it gave it to us,” Hatfield said.
Coach Stork was visibly upset by the call, claiming that the ball hitting the referee and staying in bounds should have allowed play to continue. By rule, the referee is considered to be part of the court and the play would have continued had it not been for the referee blowing the play dead.
Batavia retained possession by virtue of the possession arrow after an explanation was given to Stork.
Nothing came of the Batavia possession as Smith was whistled for an over-the-back foul going up for a rebound.
In the bonus, Bethel’s Erik Shinkle converted one of two free throws to close the Bethel lead to 33-31.
Batavia’s Neil Wilson got into the lane and made a driving layup to give the Bulldogs a four-point lead that was immediately cut to one following a Jason Adams three-pointer. Stork immediately called a timeout with 2:33 remaining to set up his defense.
Coach Hatfield drew up an isolation play for Brian Hawk who hadn’t scored into the game up to that point. The senior guard answered the call, hitting a step-back jump shot on the baseline to give the Bulldogs a 35-31 lead.
The next two times down the floor, Bethel answered, tying the game at 37 with 1:24 left in the game, thanks to a friendly home-court bounce on another Adams three-pointer.
The Bulldogs converted four-straight free throws over the next 40 seconds to open up a 41-37 lead, but again Bethel answered, this time with another Cherry three-pointer to cut the deficit to one point with 21.8 seconds left.
The Tigers quickly fouled Smith with 19 seconds left. The senior calmly sank both free throws, but Bethel had the ball in a one-possession game.
“There was 19 seconds and we wanted to get to the rim in the first five seconds if we could because we didn’t want to shoot a three until we absolutely had to,” Stork said. “So, I told them to get to the rim and get a quick two and we’ll foul them and see what happens.”
Batavia answered the call from Stork with a wrinkle of their own, switching to an active three-two zone that threw the Tigers off a bit.
“We wanted to keep them from getting to the basket,” Hatfield said. “With 19 seconds, I’m still thinking they’ll try to get to the basket, so our goal was to keep them in front of us.”
Unable to get to the basket right away, Bethel moved the ball around the perimeter and settled for a three-pointer that came up short with 4 seconds remaining. Batavia secured the rebound and in an effort to stop the clock, Bethel knocked Batavia’s Wilson out of bounds, which brought an intentional foul call from the referee that essentially put the game out of reach for Bethel after Wilson hit both free throws.
The win boosted Batavia to 3-7 on the season and dropped Bethel to 1-9 on the year. Bethel was back at on Friday, Jan. 13 at home against Amelia where the Tigers fell 59-41. Batavia kept their winning ways going on Friday, beating Williamsburg 59-57.
Batavia: (3-7) – Cooper 1 0 2, Wilson 1 2 4, Hawk 1 0 2, Smith 5 4 16, White 2 0 4, Gilbert 2 1 5, Kuebel 0 1 1, Schmitgen 2 3 8, Pelphrey 1 1 3. Totals: 15 13 45.
Bethel-Tate: (1-9) – Atkins 3 4 11, Hartley 1 0 2, Rees 1 0 2, Cherry 3 0 9, Shinkle 1 1 3, Adams 4 3 13. Totals: 13 8 40.
Halftime: Bethel-Tate 17-15. 3-pointers: B 2 (Smith, Schmitgen); BT 6 (Cherry 3, Adams 2, Atkins).