Even before the game, Head Coach Russell Burkhead knew his team was ready. He could see by the intensity in their eyes that they were fully prepared to play the border-rival Marion County Knights.
“It was the first game all year that I could see in their eyes before the game that they were ready,” Burkhead said. “If you can’t get pumped up to play [Marion County], you can’t get pumped up to play anybody.”
And, when the 2-10 Commanders came out of pre-game warm-ups, it was apparent that they were ready, as they pushed the 12-3 Knights to a halftime tie.
And, despite a 60-47 loss, Burkhead says the game is “easily the best we’ve played all season.”
“We never did quit,” Burkhead said, “No matter what the score was, they didn’t ever give up. That’s all you can ask of your players, to give their best effort for an entire game.”
Burkhead now hopes his team can build off such a solid showing,
“Playing such a competitive game like that against a team as good as Marion, it’s going to help us,” Burkhead said. “I think we turned the corner on Saturday night, and that’s gonna help us in the long run.”
Burkhead lauded the performance of several players, including freshman DT Yocum, but he was especially impressed with Michael Wheatley’s 12 points and four rebounds, an effort that he believes will be “a big confidence-booster going forward” for the sophomore.
WC’s next contest will be next Tuesday, as they compete in the All-A Classic.
The Bethlehem Eagles (5-7, 2-2) made quick work of the Commanders this past Friday night, cruising to a 68-47 win.
Burkhead called the performance, along with their Dec. 20 matchup with the Eagles, “two of the worst games we’ve played all year.”
“[The latest Bethlehem contest] was just another one of those games that are just a mystery to me,” Burkhead said, “but you’ve got to give them credit. They get after you, and they forced us into a ton of turnovers.”
They forced WC into 18 turnovers, to be exact, a number even less encouraging when combined with the fact that they only forced the Eagles into six turnovers.
Bethlehem, who didn’t trail the entire contest, set the tempo early on by forcing WC into several quick turnovers. The Eagles were able to capitalize on the Commanders’ mistakes and jumped out to what proved to be an insurmountable 19-3 lead.
By halftime, led by senior guard Shane Beisler’s 19 first-half points, Bethlehem was up 41-27.
The third quarter turned out to be more of the same domination from the Eagles, stringing together a 12-2 run at one point to push the lead to 59-35 by the end of the period.
Fourth-quarter action consisted mostly of mop-up duty, with Bethlehem pushing the final tally to 68-47.
The Commanders allowed three Eagles to score in double figures on the night, as Beisler (26 points) and junior guards Jude Hutchins (18) and Cole Mattingly (10) all accomplished the feat.
Burkhead said there is only one thing a team can do after such a disappointing effort: move on.
“We’ve got turn the page and move on,” Burkhead said. “It’s a long season.”