Bethany Outscores Bearcats, 79-64, in Championship Game of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Tournament

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. -- The Willamette University and Bethany College (Kan.) men’s basketball teams played a highly-contested game for the first 13:42 on Saturday, Dec. 30, in the championship game of the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Tournament, hosted by California Lutheran University. The game featured six ties and four lead changes in the early going, including a basket by Willamette’s Rob Andrus (Jr., Wing, Chimacum, WA/Chimacum HS) to tie the game, 28-28, with 6:18 left in the opening period. Things changed rapidly, however, as the Bethany Swedes reeled off 15 consecutive points on their way to a 17-4 run to close out the half. Bethany went on to win the game, 79-64, and claim the Thrivent Financial title.

Willamette got as close as eight points in the second half at 55-47, following a pair of free throws by Ian Mansfield (Jr., Wing/Post, Hillsboro, OR/Century HS) with 15:58 left. Bethany pulled away again, using a 20-7 run to take a 75-54 advantage. Austan Wyatt completed the run with a layup and a foul shot at the 7:00 mark.

Bethany evened its overall record at 6-6 with the win. Willamette’s record fell to 4-7. In the Thrivent Financial third place game, host California Lutheran defeated the Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wisc.), 64-57.

Tain Cantrell (So., Post, Beaverton, OR/Westview HS) led the Bearcats with 13 points, including 5 of 5 on field goals, in 21 minutes off the bench. He also provided seven rebounds. Mansfield tacked on 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while Michael Smith (Jr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS) scored 10 points to go with five assists. Dan Nugent (Fr., Wing/Post, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) added seven points on 3 of 6 shooting.

Willamette was 22 of 52 from the field (42.3%) and made only 5 of 22 three-pointers (22.7%). The Bearcats converted a solid 83.3% at the line, hitting 15 of 18 charity shots.

Four Swedes reached double figures, led by Wyatt and Anthony Javey with 16 points apiece. Marcus Wells and Ryan Lowry each scored 10 points for Bethany. The Swedes achieved a 33-30 rebounding edge, led by eight boards from Javey and six from Kelby Brown. BC shot 54.4% on field goals (31 of 57), including 56.3% in the first half (18 of 32). Bethany was 5 of 18 from 3-point range (27.8%) and went 12 of 20 (60.0%) at the line.

The back-and-forth battle in the early stages of the game opened with Bethany recording the first four points on jumpers by Thad Pera and Wyatt. Willamette scored the next five points to take the lead and later held a 12-11 advantage, following a 3-point basket by Nugent.

Bethany responded with an 8-0 run to take a 19-12 lead with 12:32 left in the half. WU put together an 11-4 run of its own to equalize at 23-23 on a jumper by Kyler McClary (So., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) at the 10:17 mark. The game remained close until Javey’s 3-pointer with 6:01 remaining in the opening period gave Bethany a 31-28 lead and started the Swedes’ string of 15 unanswered points.

Willamette’s next game will be in the Northwest Conference, as the Bearcats are slated to host conference rival Pacific University on Friday, Jan. 5, at Cone Field House. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (PST).