BELOIT—Dondre Bell admits while his Beloit Memorial basketball team always seems to have a lot of style too often it comes up short in substance.
That was certainly the case Friday night as the Purple Knights had one of the Big Eight Conference’s elite teams, Madison East, on the ropes at Barkin Arena before falling, 69-63.
“We have to find a way to put together a solid 36 minutes with no lapses,” Bell said. “Once we do that we can play with anybody. East has one of the best programs in the state and we were right there. We just have to find out how to get wins at the end.”
Like he said, winning at the end would be easier by playing smarter earlier. Take the end of the first half, for instance. Beloit had rallied to within 30-29 when freshman Faizon Farr had fed Sincere Smith for a layup with under a minute left.
The Knights got the ball back with less than 20 seconds remaining. But instead of working for one quality shot they forced a bad one on a drive and East pushed the ball upcourt for a layup. Worse, the Purgolders stole the ball and Jack Tupta scored just before the buzzer for a 34-20 lead.
“That’s a microcosm of our season right there,” Bell said. “We’ll be great and then we’ll have mental lapses on some simple stuff.”
It’s not like it isn’t a bright group.
“We have five kids on our team with 4.0 grade point averages,” Bell said. “They’re smart. But when you get fatigued you have to focus more and the story of our season is that when our legs start getting fatigued we start to make mistakes. It’s costing us games.”
Bell found a fresh pair of legs in freshman Farr, who led the Knights with 16 points, including 11 in the second half.
“He’s a special kid,” Bell said of Farr. “He played a lot of basketball this season. We gave us a big lift with his energy and his basketball IQ.”
East went up 10 early in the second half, but Beloit stayed within striking distance and finally drew within three, 65-62, when Farr swished a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining.
The Purgolders (12-3, 10-2) called timeout with 38 seconds left and while the sixth man is often considered a good thing in sports, it isn’t when you have six players on the court. The Knights did, drawing a technical foul as play resumed.
The Knights caught a break when East missed both free throws, but were forced to foul David McKinley and he hit 1-of-2 for a 66-62 advantage.
Beloit’s Azeez Ganiyu matched that when he was fouled with :17 left to get it back to a three-point deficit, 66-63.
East against went to the line in the double bonus a second later and Jevan Boyton hit 1-of-2 to give him a game-high 21 points in the game.
After Beloit (2-12, 2-10) missed a 3-pointer, East’s McKinley capped the win with two free throws.
Danihy finished with 14 points and Cam’Ron Boyd chipped in 11. The Knights were 12-of-20 from the line and had five 3-pointers. East was just 12-of-22 at the line and had three treys. But the Purgolders killed the Knights on the backboard all night. Boxing out is one of those “little things” Bell hopes his Knights improve on.
“You have to put a body on somebody in the Big Eight and make them come over your back,” he said. “You can’t just try to outjump people all the time.”
Bell hasn’t given up on his Knights.
“We still have a lot of season left and we’ll continue to work hard,” he said. “We’re going to put ourselves in the position to be Cinderella this year. We just have to control our mental lapses and do the little things right on both ends of the floor.”
MADISON EAST 69, BELOIT MEMORIAL 63
MADISON EAST (fg ft-fta pts)—Anderson 1 0-0 3, Jones 7 0-0 15, McKinley 4 6-8 14, McIntosh 2 0-2 4, Boyton 8 5-9 21, Justice 3 1-3 7, Tupta 2 0-0 5. Totals: 27 12-22 69.
BELOIT MEMORIAL (fg-fga ft-fta pts)—Phiffer 1 1-1 3, France 1 0-0 2, Smith 1 1-2 4, Hanna 1 0-0 2, Farr 5 4-6 16, Harris 0 1-2 1, Bell 1 2-2 4, Garrett 3 0-0 6, Boyd 4 1-2 11, Ganiyu 6 2-5 14. Totals: 23 12-20 63.
Madison East 34 35 — 69
Beloit Memorial 29 34 — 63
3-pt. Goals—ME 3 (Anderson, Tupta, Jones), BM 5 (Farr 2, Boyd 2, Smith).