Bethel Baptist Captures Conference Tournament

Bethel Baptist won the New Penn Christian Conference Tournament title over the weekend. Submitted photo

ERIE, Pa. — The Bethel Baptist Christian Academy Defenders brought home a stunning New Penn Christian Conference Tournament title Saturday with a 65-43 victory over the Bethel Christian School Warriors.

The end-of-season tournament was held at the Erie First School Gymnasium.

The stunning aspect of the decisive tournament championship was BBCA’s two late-season losses to Bethel of Erie, a 48-46 loss in Jamestown on Jan. 29, and a 52-32 loss in Erie a week later.

BBCA junior forward Zack Anderson dominated the championship game with 26 points and senior forward Jared Younger added 17 points, including two 3-pointers. The Defenders built a 21-18 advantage at halftime behind some good free-throw shooting by Younger, who hails from Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

The Defenders then emerged from the locker room with a stifling and tenacious defense that produced turnovers and a consistent ability to beat Bethel of Erie’s full-court press. Anderson, who lives near Prendergast Point in Mayville, was joined by junior center Logan Stutzman of Busti, who had 8 points, and a punishing presence in the paint that produced defensive and offensive rebounds. Their offensive rebounds converted to quick baskets.

Sophomore guard Zack Rohlin of Russell, Pennsylvania chipped in 7 points, including one 3-pointer, in helping the Defenders pull away. Rohlin helped build a 27-20 head in the early third quarter. Sophomore guard Sam Olson of Lakewood came off the bench to hit two baseline jumpers for his 4 points to build the lead to 11 points. The Warriors closed the deficit to 7 points once, but Anderson, Stutzman, Younger and Rohlin, combined with a punishing team defense, proved too much for the Warriors. The Defenders outscored the Warriors 44-25 in the second half.

Those four core Defenders starters received help from senior forward Stephen Brenner of Spring Creek Township, Pennsylvania, Olson, freshman guard Jimmy Nixon of Jamestown, senior and junior forwards Tyler and Coby Smith of Busti, Gabe Heilman of Mayville, and Justin Bloss of Corry, Pennsylvania in ending any chance the Warriors would come back in the title game. Every bench player Defenders Coach Rick Rohlin put on the court provided the same tenacious defense that helped expand the second-half lead and deliver the tournament title.

On Friday evening, the Defenders defeated the Christian Life Academy Eagles from Oil City, Pennsylvania, 60-48. Younger, Rohlin, Anderson and Olson helped the Defenders build a more than 20-point lead before the Eagles attempted a fourth-quarter comeback. The Defenders built a 12-6 first-quarter lead as they never trailed in the contest.

The BBCA Defenders, who won one conference and one non-league game last season, finished the 2018-19 season 10-5 after their two NPCC tournament victories. They defeated the Sheffield High School Wolverines in December, 64-60, and captured a Christmas tournament title at Faith Christian Academy in Seneca, Pennsylvania. Their losses came to Youngsville High School in a December tournament, 49-47, two to Bethel of Erie, and two late-season losses to Calvary Baptist Christian Academy of Meadville, Pennsylvania

Two years ago, BBCA did not have any sports at the Christian school on Hunt Road, which was a window of about three years with dwindling interest in sports. Besides varsity boys and girls basketball and junior varsity boys basketball, BBCA had girls volleyball and boys soccer in the fall.


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