By Chris Chaney
A difficult start to the season has been fully pushed to the backburner for the Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers as the team wheeled off five wins in a row around the New Year thanks in large part to the return of one of the team’s leaders.
“We had a rough start, but when we got back our point guard and leading scorer back — Brooke Jenike — we started playing with some confidence,” head coach Dave Fallis said. “We ran our offense and put an emphasis on defense. We averaged (giving up) close to 40 points over our past six games. Our pressure’s been good, we’ve stayed out of foul trouble and we’ve hit some shots to start the game that have set the tone.”
Brooke Jenike’s return took a lot of the pressure off of her younger sister, Julia, who had been tasked with taking over her sister’s role while she recovered from torn ligaments in her elbow.
“(Brooke) coming back takes all the pressure off of Julia,” Fallis explained. “Now we’ve got three or four kids who can shoot from the perimeter, so we’re no longer one-dimensional trying to score off of our defensive press.
“We can also run some different offensive things that prior we would have to have Julia bring the ball up. We were asking (Julia) to handle the ball, score all the points, get rebounds; we were asking her to do a lot as a sophomore, so it’s taken pressure off her and helped us all around.”
Prior to Brooke’s return, the Lady Tigers had lost five straight contests, three of which came against Southern Buckeye Conference American Division opponents. Goals and expectations had to be altered when she went down prior to the start of the season.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to compete for a league championship,” Fallis said. “This has been our best shot since I’ve been here.”
Circumstances as they were, the Lady Tigers had to climb out of a 1-3 hole in the conference and now can only hope to get into a third-place finish if they can surpass Goshen and Norwood.
“Right now, with our loss to New Richmond on Saturday, we think we have a shot at third,” Fallis explained. “We want to play the best possible team in the (SBC tournament) because that’s the last game before the (sectional). We were hoping to get a rematch with Felicity because we didn’t play our best game against them (earlier in the season), but they look like they are going to get second and mathematically, it doesn’t look like we can get to second.”
The SBC tournament at the end of the season pits the American and National Divisions against one another in essence to create a single standings table for the entire conference. The teams are matched up against their counterparts in the other division, first-place finisher vs. first-place finisher, etc.
Beyond the regular season, the Lady Tigers have lofty ambitions in the postseason. Having dropped down to Division III by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Bethel-Tate will compete against new teams in the sectional tournament this season, which Fallis said, doesn’t mean that they are easier games to win.
“Our goal is to get to a sectional and win a sectional championship,” he said. “You only have to win two games to get to (a sectional final) and you win three, you win the sectional title.
“We play up at Wilmington this year. There’s some good competition up there, but no body that I look at and think we can’t beat them. We can compete with all those teams, so we’re looking forward to that.”
Bethel only has five games remaining on their regular season schedule with the Feb. 8 SBC tournament acting as their last tune-up before the sectional tournament.
The Lady Tigers will find out their path to the sectional final on Feb. 2 at the tournament draw. The earliest they could play in the sectional is Feb. 13.