The Bethlehem Christian Academy boys’ basketball team showed steady improvement over the second half of the season, and the Knights will put that progress to the test Wednesday, Feb. 24, in the first round of the GISA Class AAA playoffs.
The Knights, seeded 11th in the 16-team field, will make the long three-plus-hour trek to Statesboro to take on sixth-seeded Bulloch Academy at 6 p.m. with a third consecutive trip to the Elite Eight on the line.
BCA (9-11) is coming off a 60-30 loss to top-ranked John Milledge Academy in the Region 4-AAA championship game in Milledgeville on Friday, Feb. 19, a week after the Trojans routed the Knights in the same venue. But the way BCA coach Kevin Hall sees it, the Knights should be ready to handle anything thrown at them at this point after playing the top team twice in their last three games.
“Playing John Milledge is certainly good preparation for any opponent,” Hall said. “It’s not like we’re going to be going in there not battle-tested. We’ve been playing better since the start of January. We’ve been getting our bearings and developing good chemistry. It’ll be our first really long road trip on the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the guys handle that. But I feel pretty good about it overall.”
The Gators (11-11) are playing well of late and defeated St. Andrew’s of Savannah 55-54 on Saturday, Feb. 20, to claim the Region 2-AAA title.
“They’re a well-balanced team with two big guys that they interchange and a point guard who’s going to be a handful to contend with,” Hall said of the Gators. “It’s a different team with a different look from John Milledge. If we can use our speed, that’s something that could give us an advantage against them with those bigger guys and give us a good shot to win.”
Ultimately, Hall said, the key to winning what is shaping up to be a potentially tight game will be a “real team effort” with several players continuing to play key roles. Hall in particular lauded the strong defensive play of Simon Steele and Timothy Doolittle in the 52-47 win over Westfield in the region tournament semifinals Thursday, Feb. 18.
“It seems like each game we’ve had different people stepping up,” Hall said. “We’ve been really fortunate to take care of the ball down the stretch and make our free throws. It just seems like we’re finding ways to rise to the occasion in the big moments of those close games.”
With a win, BCA would advance to play the winner of the first-round game between Southland Academy and Trinity Christian (Dublin) in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at John Milledge.