By Justin Whitaker
CLAYTON — Luckily, the Cascade Cadets boys’ basketball team had built a lead, because the Bethesda Christian Patriots never quit.
Cascade withstood a sloppy second half and a late 9-0 fourth quarter run by Bethesda to win, 53-43.
Through a 26-16 advantage at halftime, the Cadets (5-11) had turned the ball over five times. In the second half, Cascade gave the ball away 17 times. Those turnovers helped allow the Patriots (3-11) back into the game.
“We took care of the ball when we needed to,” Cascade coach Chris DuBois said. “We turned the ball over 17 times in the second half and that killed us. That’s why Bethesda could make a run. Give credit to them. They were hustling, they were trapping and we weren’t taking care of the ball.”
Junior Hayden Suter led the Cadets with 15 points, senior Daljot Bajwa scored 13 points and freshman Zac Butler added eight points off the bench.
Bethesda’s senior two-man combo of Malik Roper and Deonte Gates combined to score 39 of the Patriots’ 43 points. Roper scored a game-high 24 points and Gates added 15.
“Malik and Deonte when they kicked into that higher gear, our team feeds on them,” Bethesda coach Justin Cook said. “And to credit their growth, they probably would have fractured and splintered earlier in the season. You see them feeding off each other in the last five or six minutes and that’s leadership.”
Of Bethesda’s 52 shots, the combo of Roper and Gates accounted for 44 of those attempts. Both players serving as the main scoring options for the Patriots works both positively and negatively.
“It’s a two-edged sword,” Cook said. “You are so thankful to have kids like that who are bulldogs and are going to go after it. At the same time, I thought we got a lot of really good looks that didn’t go down from the other guys.”
DuBois expected the 1-2 punch of Roper and Gates and the Cadets still could not slow the duo.
“Unfortunately we didn’t do a very good job of containing them. Roper and Gates are great players,” DuBois said. “We told our guys to key on them but we didn’t do a very good job of doing that. We were doing zone, man, zone, man and they still attacked it. Those guys are good players and it didn’t matter what we were doing, they were still going to the basket.”
Cascade led 11-9 after the first quarter and was able to stretch the lead to 10 at halftime. The second quarter deficit proved to be the difference in the game as Cascade made nine free throws and Suter poured in two triples. Bethesda was outscored 15-7 in the quarter.
“That second quarter was huge,” DuBois said. “If we didn’t get that lead in the second quarter we don’t win this game.”
Both teams opened the second half with three turnovers each in the first 2:15 of the third.
Bajwa scored the first six points of the half, including two baskets off offensive rebounds to stretch the Cadets’ lead to a game-high 16 points.
Gates scored the Patriots’ first field goal of the half with 2:52 remaining in the third. Back-to-back Cascade turnovers off of Roper steals and layups cut the deficit quickly back to 10 points.
“He really thrives on chaos, so that’s probably my fault for not going to the diamond sooner to create a more a chaotic environment there,” Cook said.
Patrick McCurry’s 3-pointer right before the end of the third quarter cut the lead to 40-27 and was the first and only field goal from a Bethesda player not named Roper or Gates in the contest.
Cascade continued their poor ball control with four turnovers in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots capitalized as Gates scored the first basket of a 9-0 run and Roper finished it off to cut the lead to 46-40 with under four minutes to go.
But that was as close as the Patriots would get.
“The question is how do we bring that energy for 32 minutes and not just the last 11,” Cook said.
Cadet senior Jake Canaday and Bajwa each responded with layups each to put the game out of reach.