By Nick Hampton
CHECOTAH – The Wildcats from the east made the ones from Checotah pay here Friday night.
The outside shooting of guard Garrett Fitzgerald and the inside penetration of guard Clint Simmons proved too much and the Bethel Wildcats knocked off the Wildcats from Checotah 49-48 in the Class 4A Area IV District 4 championship game Friday night at the Checotah Event Center.
The Wildcats (14-8) now fall into the consolation bracket of the playoffs and will host the loser of tonight’s Ada-McLoud contest at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“Bethel played well, shot the ball well and we didn’t. We didn’t defend as well as we should have and a lot of things happened down the stretch and we just didn’t play our best basketball,” said Checotah coach Jason Dowdy
Bethel was able to contain Checotah power forward Cameron Pipe for the most part, limiting the 6-4 senior to 12 points, but maybe more importantly, just a handful of rebounds.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald knocked down five 3-pointers en route to a 20-point performance and Simmons repeatedly took it in to the paint against Checotah as he scored 15 points.
Deshawn Jackson, with a team-high 14 points, and DeShay Bear, with nine points, took up some of the scoring slack and kept the game close. There were nine lead changes and neither team was able to grab more than a five-point lead, the last being a 45-40 Bethel advantage with 3:30 to play in the game.
Checotah made it a 45-42 game with three minutes left. Bethel, with the double bonus in their favor, looked for an easy shot or a foul and had a couple of chances from the charity line. But Fitzgerald and Alec Delsigne both managed just 1-of-2 free-throw attempts, sandwiched around an old-fashioned three-point play by Jackson, to make it 47-45.
Bear hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it a one-point game with 24 seconds left and Bethel fumbled the rebound on the miss out of bounds. But after the in-bounds pass, Jackson was called for a travel with 21 seconds left.
Kyler Kidney of Bethel was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 49-46 with 16 seconds left. At the other end, Jackson redeemed himself with an uncontested drive to make it 49-48 with six seconds left. Bethel (9-14) tried a long pass and turned the ball over in the forecourt with 1.4 seconds left. Checotah inbounded, but Pipe’s attempt from mid-court hit the front of the rim to the groans of the home crowd as time ran out.
“We were just out of sync and hats off to those guys for coming out and getting on us. We just had bad night,” said Dowdy.
Bethel 70, Checotah 42
Despite shooting just 13 percent (2 of 15) from the field in the final quarter, the Lady Wildcats of Bethel ended up shooting 50 percent (22 of 44) for the game including 12 of 26 from 3-point land to stop Checotah cold.
After a close first quarter, Bethel went 8 of 9 from the field in the second quarter, including four treys, while Checotah struggled, going just 3 for 13 in the quarter, and Bethel outscored Checotah 28-7 to take control of the game.
“I think Bethel is just a good team and coach (Jace) Johnson does a good job with them and they just shot lights out, “ said Checotah coach Kim Lewis. “We did everything we could. We went from a zone to man-to-man to some strange defenses and when a team is shooting that well that’s about all you can do.”
Bethel guard Meghan Tade was nearly unstoppable, going 5 for 9 from beyond the arc and scoring 20 points for the visitors. Reserve guard Rylee Steward added three more 3-pointers for Bethel and had 16 points. Sophomore Jazzland Dandridge was the only player in double figures for Checotah with 10 points.
Checotah will play at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at home against the loser between Ada and Mc Loud.