ELKHART — A schedule stuffed with seven games over a 15-day span thanks to a few now-rescheduled postponements and an opponent that Elkhart Christian Academy already stuffed by 54 points in late December could’ve served as a combination causing the Eagles to look ahead, but they were having none of that.
Not with already coming off a scare before escaping Jimtown with a win earlier in the week. Not with a team this veteran-rich. And not with it being Senior Night.
Senior Cory Waycaster scored 19 points while going 9-of-10 from the field and five of his teammates finished with eight to 10 points apiece as the Eagles sailed by Bethany Christian 67-38 in boys high school basketball Friday, Feb. 7.
"It was exciting just to finally have a Friday night game," coach Ryan Culp said of something ECA hadn’t had since Dec. 6, "and to be able to celebrate Senior Night with this group, that was fun."
"We don’t take anybody lightly," Waycaster said, alluding to the Eagles downing the Bruins 82-28 in Bethany’s holiday tourney on Dec. 21. "We were planning on coming out strong, and I think we came out pretty strong."
Senior Ryan Kupferschmid scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for ECA, which outboarded the Bruins 41-20, and senior Kenny Bearss tallied 10 points to go with game highs of six assists and three steals.
It was the second of the seven games in 15 days for the Class 1A No. 7-ranked Eagles (10-3), and the stretch continues Saturday, Feb. 8, with a first-ever meeting against host Fairfield and a Monday, Feb. 10 visit to Bremen.
"Knowing we have a game tomorrow and another Monday, we wanted to be somewhat conservative by rotating guys, keeping guys fresh, and we were able to do that some tonight," Culp said. "No matter what, though, we have to come out and play good defense. We're working on some fundamental things on defense, but we're getting better."
Similar to that Dec. 21 meeting — which was tied at 12 through one quarter — the Bruins (3-11) did hang around in the early going again, even leading 12-6 midway through the first quarter, but then ECA proceeded on a 22-4 spree to take a 28-16 lead by the 3:35 mark of the second period and led by double digits the rest of the way.
"I think the kids understand what we're trying to do in practice and believe in it, and come out trying to do it," Bethany coach Jim Buller said, "but then they get caught in the moment, caught in that speed and physicality of play, and kind of want to retaliate or get even with what's happening, and lose focus a little bit. We let the speed of the game get in our blood a little bit. If we can be a little more selective on offense, I hope we can be competitive as we finish out the (season)."
Through eight quarters against the Eagles this season, and potentially more come sectional time, Buller's seen plenty with which to be impressed.
"That's a group that's been playing together a long time, they're well-coached, run a lot of sets, are disciplined on the defensive end, and they're thick, strong kids," Buller said. "So they have athletes who also know how to play basketball. They're not just bigger bodies than us, they're skilled players. Tonight they hurt us inside-out and beat us in transition. They do a lot of things."
"I thought we were moving the ball well, just playing good team basketball," Waycaster said of continually getting high-percentage shots, some on feeds from Bearss, some on authoritative drives where he had an angle.
"Cory was very strong tonight with his control and penetration, and kicking it out when things did shut down," Culp said, "and Kenny definitely did some things on the defensive end and then converted that over to some offensive energy for us with some nice assists. He's a very heady kid who understands the flow of the game and where the ball needs to go and when."
Bearss, Waycaster, Kupferschmid and Tanner Watson — ECA's core-four senior starters — were all out of the game for good with 3:04 to go and the Eagles leading 63-36. Jon Anderson also got a start, given that it was Senior Night.
For Bethany, junior Sol Brenneman scored 10 points. Senior Abe Thorne added team highs of six rebounds and three assists to go with four points.
"We're starting to come along," Buller said. "We're playing a lot of kids relatively new to varsity this year. Sol and Abe have been carrying a big part of our offensive load, but they're looking for way to get others involved, so we're becoming a little more diverse. If you look at the scoreboard, it doesn't necessarily feel that way at times, but we're making progress."
ELKHART CHRISTIAN 67,
BETHANY CHRISTIAN 38
Bethany — Abe Thorne 2-8 0-0 4, Sol Brenneman 5-14 0-0 10, Ethan Miller 2-5 0-0 5, Tristan Clark 3-7 0-0 8, Joseph Mumaw 3-9 0-0 6, Ian Bomberger 0-1 0-0 0, Joel Gerig 0-1 0-0 0, Joel Miller 2-4 0-0 5, Ryan Duckworth 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-49 (.347) 0-0 (.000) 38.
Elkhart Christian — Ryan Kupferschmid 2-7 5-5 10, Cory Waycaster 9-10 1-2 19, Jon Anderson 1-1 1-2 3, Tanner Watson 4-8 0-0 8, Kenny Bearss 4-9 2-4 10, Jude Allen 3-6 2-4 8, Drew Overmyer 3-8 0-0 9, Steve Weaver 0-1 0-0 0, Connor Matthes 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Springer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-50 (.520) 11-17 (.647) 67.
Scoring By Quarters
Bethany — 14 4 14 6 — 38
Elkhart Christian — 16 14 19 18 — 67
3-point goals: Bethany (4-17) — Clark 2-4, J. Miller 1-2, E. Miller 1-4; Elkhart Christian (4-20) — Overymyer 3-8, Kupferschmid 1-4.
Rebounds: Bethany (20) — Thorne 6, Brenneman 3, J. Miller 3; Elkhart Christian (41) — Kupferschmid 10, Waycaster 6, Watson 6, Bearss 6.
Assists: Bethany (7) — Thorne 3, E. Miller 2, Mumaw 2, ; Elkhart Christian (17) — Bearss 6, Kupferschmid 3, Waycaster 3.
Steals: Bethany (3) — E. Miller, Clark, J. Miller; Elkhart Christian (6) — Bearss 3, Weaver 2.
Turnovers: Bethany 8, Elkhart Christian 9.
Total fouls: Bethany 15, Elkhart Christian 7. Fouled out — none.
Officials: Dennis Berkey, Jody Birk, Floyd Knafel.
Records: Bethany 3-11, Elkhart Christian 10-3.
Next: FW Blackhawk at Bethany, Elkhart Christian at Fairfield, both Saturday, Feb. 8.
JV: Elkhart Christian 38, Bethany 31. Top scorers: Elkhart Christian — Bryce Kitchen 11, Chase Biddle 6, Austin Springer 6, Francis Uzorh 6; Bethany — Bryce Miller 9, Joel Plank 7, Noah Richer 6, Ryan Duckworth 6. JV records: Elkhart Christian 2-7, Bethany 3-8.