By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Unbeaten Bethel came in looking to showcase its stars, Patrick Bain and Christian Pfledderer.
Instead, Miami East’s Damien Mackesy stole the show.
The sophomore post cleaned house with a career-high 29 points and 12 rebounds — and he couldn’t have picked a better night to have his breakout game, either, as the Vikings outlasted the Cross County Conference rival Bees in a back-and-forth slugfest, winning 71-63 Friday night in one of the biggest upsets of the season thus far.
Miami East (5-4, 3-1 CCC) outscored Bethel (9-1, 4-1) 28-19 in the fourth quarter to put the game away, surviving a battle that saw nine ties and a whopping 17 lead changes — with six of those coming in the final 45 seconds of the third quarter alone.
And Mackesy was a big part of that.
“We started off kind of rocky this year,” Mackesy said. “But we go into practice every day and work our butts off. Our aggressiveness came back to us a little last weekend against West Liberty, and it carried over to tonight.”
“We wanted to take advantage of some of the openings that their defensive pressure created, and Damien benefited from that a lot,” Miami East coach Allen Mack said. “He just kept banging away in there and cleaned up a lot of chances.
“He’s been on the verge of a game like that a couple times this year. Tonight, he just went out and got it done for us.”
Especially late in the fourth.
After Bethel cut the lead to 56-52 on a dunk by Bain (12 points, nine rebounds, three assists), Mackesy hit a putback in transition to answer. And after a huge block by Bain seemed to give the Bees some momentum, Mackesy again was in the right place to score the follow — the second time he had scored after Bethel had blocked a shot in the quarter.
“He comes up with the loose ball and makes a big play,” Mack said. “They get a block, their crowd is celebrating … and then all of a sudden our crowd is celebrating. Damien really cleaned up a lot in those situations.”
“We knew we were a good team going in,” Mackesy said. “This feels real good.”
Thirteen of Mackesy’s points came from the free throw line, too, as he was 13 for 19 in the game. Nick Beard (13 points, four rebounds) was also 9 for 10 in the game as the Vikings were 27 for 39 as a team.
A.J. Hickman added 13 points and eight rebounds, Brandon Mack hit a pair of 3s for six points and Braxton Donaldson and Conner Hellyer had four points and four rebounds apiece as Miami East won the battle of the boards 32-24.
“For us to have the edge on the boards, that was big,” Mack said. “We lost a tough one by one at their place last year, and this again was a typical Miami East-Bethel game.
“I’m very proud of our kids. This was the kind of effort we’ve been looking for.”
With Bain and Pfledderer struggling against the Viking defense, Bethel’s Christian Hagen stepped up to keep the Bees within striking distance. Hagen slashed and drove his was to a team-high 21 points — 13 of them coming in the third quarter to turn a 36-29 Viking lead midway through into a 44-43 Bees edge entering the fourth.
Pfledderer finished with 16 points for Bethel, which forced 16 turnovers in the game to 12. Julian Brooks came off the bench, hit a pair of 3s and scored eight points and Evan Hasley scored four.
Miami East has another tough matchup tonight, taking on 8-1 Troy Christian — whose only loss is to Bethel in overtime — while the Bees host Dayton Christian Tuesday.
Bethel — 63
Patrick Bain 5-1-12, Julian Brooks 3-0-8, Christian Pfledderer 7-2-16, Jason Clendening 0-0-0, Kurt Hamlin 1-0-2, Evan Hasley 2-0-4, Christian Hagen 9-2-21, Evan Hawthorn 0-0-0. Totals: 27-5-63.
Miami East — 71
Franco Villella 0-2-2, Damien Mackesy 8-13-29, Conner Hellyer 1-1-4, Braxton Donaldson 2-0-4, Nick Beard 2-9-13, Brandon Mack 2-0-6, A.J. Hickman 5-2-13. Totals: 20-27-71.
Score By Quarters
Bethel10 23 44 63
ME11 25 43 71
3-point goals: Bethel — Bain, Brooks 2, Hagen. Miami East — Hellyer, Mack 2, Hickman.
Records: Bethel 9-1, 4-1. Miami East 5-4, 3-1.