BREMEN — Coming off a two-week holiday layover, the Lions got off to a bit of a slow start Tuesday.
Once they shook off the rust, however, they took over.
After surrendering a 4-0 game-opening run by visiting Bethany Christian, Bremen locked in to hold the Bruins scoreless from the field for more than six minutes, grabbing a 10-point, 15-5 lead in the process. Bethany responded with a run of its own in the second quarter, but the Lions answered back and never trailed after the 2:30 mark of the first in a 59-45 win at home.
“When you haven’t played a game in 14 days, that’s expected,” said first-year Bremen head coach Ryan Eakins of his team’s slow start. “We came out and we had one guy who hurt his hand pretty good, Ben (Hueni) has had the flu for a couple days. So coming out of the gate I expected us to be a little rusty, but the guys really, really buckled down and really executed our game plan to perfection. I couldn’t ask for more from them from a mental standpoint coming off a long break.”
The Lions saw balanced scoring with double-digit production from four players, including two reserves, as T.J. Bayer put up 13 points, followed by sixth-man Jacob Box’s 12, while Ben Hueni overcame illness to finish with 10 points, and reserve Tim Zimmer matched that tally with 10 points of his own against the Bruins.
“We are really, really dangerous when we have balanced scoring,” said Eakins. “And we have guys all across the board that can put numbers on the board. Our bench was phenomenal. Jacob Box played by far his best game of the season tonight. He did a great job attacking the basket, especially in transition. Tim Zimmer was huge. He got a lot of hustle baskets for us. Ben was solid for us; especially being sick. T.J. finally did a really nice job attacking the basket. His athleticism is impressive, and when he uses it like he did tonight he’s really, really tough going to the bucket.”
Bremen (4-3) grabbed a 15-5 lead at the 59-second mark of the opening stanza with a 15-1 run spanning 2:56 of the frame and capped off by a driving lay-in from Hueni. Bethany (4-5) cut that lead back to two points at 18-16 with an 11-3 run sparked by a triple from senior guard Bryce Rheinheimer at the 37-second stop of the first, but the Lions answered back with a 12-4 quarter-ending run, including an 8-0 spurt to close the half and give them a 30-20 cushion headed into the intermission. A Zimmer driving lay-up at the 3:21 mark of the third keyed an 8-0 run by the Lions to stretch that lead to 45-28 with just over a minute left in the period, putting Bremen firmly in the driver’s seat for good, and the home team never led by less than double digits again.
“We’ve talked a lot about how do we respond not only to adversity, but how do we respond to success,” said Eakins. “Most of the time when we’ve made runs this season and teams have called time out or we’ve come out of halftime, we’ve come out lackadaisical. I thought we did a much better job of focusing mentally on what needed to be done and not relaxing. We got a little bit of a run, and that was excellent taking us into halftime. Then the third quarter is where we’ve really struggled this year letting teams back in the game, and I thought our mental approach at halftime was much better, and that run was huge to get us going.”
While Bremen’s balanced offense clicked at a 25-of-43 (58 percent) rate, the Lions threw some new 1-3-1 and 2-3 looks at Bethany on the defensive end to hold the Bruins to 18 of 55 from the floor. While Bremen did outboard the Bruins 34-31, the Lions gave up nearly half of Bethany’s boards on the offensive end, as the visitors converted 15 offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points.
“We hadn’t played a possession of zone yet this entire season, but with our length and our ability to get hands up on shooters I thought it would work really well against these guys,” Eakins said. “We wanted to force them to shoot from the perimeter, and other than a little bit of dirty work we need to clean up on the glass, I thought our approach defensively was outstanding tonight.”
While Bayer, Box, Hueni and Zimmer all finished in double figures, junior Ethan Pike finished with nine points to go with a team-leading 10 rebounds flirting with a double-double, while Mitch Huppert finished with nine rebounds and two steals.
Bremen was led by Indiana University soccer recruit Femi Hollinger-Janzen’s game-high 18 points with three steals, while David DeLeeuw finished with 16 points and a game-best 13 caroms.
The Lions improve to 4-3 and will resume play with a Northern State Conference game at LaVille Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
• BREMEN 59,
BETHANY CHRISTIAN 45
Score by quarters
Bethany: 8 20 29 45
Bremen: 15 30 47 59
BETHANY CHRISTIAN (45): Sol Brenneman 0 0-0 0, David DeLeeuw 6 4-7 16, Femi Hollinger-Janzen 7 2-3 18, Jesse Loewen 1 0-0 2, Jared Miller 0 0-0 0, Caleb Morris 3 0-1 6, Austin Mumaw 0 0-0 0, Bryce Rheinheimer 1 0-0 3, Issac Schertz 0 0-0 0, Abe Thorne 0 0-0 0; Totals: 18 6-11 45.
BREMEN (59): T.J. Bayer 6 0-0 13, Jacob Box 5 1-3 12, Don Browning 0 0-0 0, Wes Burkholder 0 0-0 0, Ben Hueni 3 3-4 10, Austin Huff 2 1-2 5, Mitch Huppert 0 0-0 0, Dillon Mullen 0 0-0 0, Ethan Pike 4 1-3 9, Tim Zimmer 5 0-2 10; Totals: 25 6-14 59.
3-points goals: Bremen 3 (Hueni, Box, Bayer), Bethany 3 (Hollinger-Janzen 2, Rheinheimer); Turnovers: Bremen 16, Bethany 11; Rebounds: Bremen 34 (Pike 10, Huppert 9), Bethany 31 (DeLeeuw 13); Assists: Bremen 8 (Box 2, Zimmer 2), Bethany 3 (Morris 2); Steals: Bremen 6 (Huppert 2), Bethany 5 (Hollinger-Janzen 3); Fouls (fouled out): Bremen 14 (none), Bethany 13 (none).
Records: Bremen 4-3, Bethany Christian 4-5
JV score: Bremen 37 (Wes Burkholder 10, Sam Lacher 10), Bethany Christian 25 (Nate Nussbaum 7).