At halftime of the regional semi-final against Bethesda Christian, Southwestern’s Aiden Hartsell had yet to put the ball through the hoop. To that point, the junior, who had proven to be a reliable scorer throughout the season, had taken one shot.
That all changed in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Hartsell scored 10 of the Spartans’ 18 points, including a 3-pointer from the corner less than two minutes in that coach Brady Days said sparked the offense.
“That’s an ‘I want to win, so just ride with me guys (shot),’” Days said following Southwestern’s regional final loss to Indianapolis Tindley. “And we believe in him. That’s what makes him special.”
That shot gave Southwestern a 44-43 lead, and while Bethesda Christian responded with a layup by junior DeMonte Ferguson, the Spartans made some big plays down the stretch to pull out the win.
Hartsell drove for two more with three minutes left and his brother, Anick, scored to make it 48-45.
The Spartans then stole the ball off the inbounds pass and Aiden Hartsell scored for a 50-45 lead.
Senior Nehemiah Terry scored for the Patriots, but Aiden Hartsell knocked down another three for a 53-47 lead.
“He’s just a competitor. He’s just a winner,” Days said. “That’s why he’s that way on the soccer field, that’s why he’s that way in baseball. He just wants to win. There’s times he throws out maybe like the basic fundamentals.”
Days credited the defense for making the fourth quarter run possible.
After what he thought might have been “the worst defense” the team played during its tournament run, the team stepped up and got stops down the stretch.
“What’s funny is we had four days to prepare for Bethesda and it looked like we didn’t know what they were running,” he said with a chuckle. “We started getting stops and guys stepped up and that’s kind of what this year’s been.”
What started out as a game between two teams showing off their offensive firepower slowed down to more of a grind.
Southwestern knocked down 6-of-10 shots, including making half of its eight 3-point attempts, to take a 19-16 at the end of the first quarter
Down 16-14 late in the quarter, senior Riley Snepp knocked down a three from the top of the key to take the lead. One minute later, he added a pair of free throws for the three-point lead.
The Spartans fell behind 29-27 at halftime after cooling off from the field. Southwestern shot 3-for-11 from the field in the second quarter.
Aiden Hartsell scored all 16 of his game-high points in the second half, shooting 6-for-11 from the field. Christian DeArmitt scored 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Southwestern had two others finish in double figures — Anick Hartsell with 11 and Snepp with 10.
Bethesda Christian had three finish in double figures, led by Bennett Burgin’s 15. Terry and Ferguson both added 10 apiece.
Southwestern 57, Bethesda Christian 50
BETHESDA CHRISTIAN (50)
Thornton 1-6 1-2 3, Chapman 2-4 1-2 7, Burgin 5-10 2-2 15, Terry 5-6 0-1 10, Ferguson 5-12 0-0 10, Torrence 0-1 0-0 0, Miagan 2-7 0-0 5. Totals: 20-46 4-7 50.
Ai. Hartsell 6-11 2-2 16, Wendling 2-6 0-0 5, DeArmitt 5-9 4-6 15, Snepp 3-5 2-2 10, An. Hartsell 2-10 6-6 11. Totals: 18-41 14-16 57.
Bethesda Christian: 16;13;14;7;-;50
3-point field goals: Bethesda Christian 6 (Chapman 2, Burgin 3, Mlagan); Southwestern 7 (Ai. Hartsell 2, Wendling, DeArmitt, Snepp 2, An. Hartsell). Rebounds: Bethesda Christian 16 (Terry
4, Ferguson 2, Mlagan 4, Chapman 3, Thornton 1, Burgin 2); Southwestern 19 (Wendling 5, Snepp 9, DeArmitt 3, Ai. Hartsell 1, Jones 1). Turnovers: Bethesda Christian 7, Southwestern 8. Fouled out: None. Records: Bethesda Christian (18-8), Southwestern (14-10).