Morton’s Bethel Lutheran Church high school youth basketball team concluded their 2019-2020 season with championships in both the Lutheran Sports Association of Illinois’ (LSA) High School Basketball Tournament and the Basketball of Lutheran Leagues’ (BALL) National Basketball Tournament over two consecutive weekends. The team consisted of members of Bethel Lutheran Church, as well as members of other area churches without basketball programs, none of whom are players on any high school basketball rosters.
On February 29, Bethel’s #1 team opened the eight team LSA State Tournament held at Christ Lutheran School in Peoria with a 68-18 victory over the Bloomington Trinity #2 team with overall balanced scoring and Brandon Johnson (12 pts.) and Quentin Cuevas (10 pts.) as the team’s leading scorers. The semifinal game provided the team’s most exciting game of the season with a 70-64 win in triple overtime over Collinsville Holy Cross. The contest was close throughout with both teams playing man-to-man defense the entire game and with no team ever having more than a six-point lead. Holy Cross made a last second basket to send the game into overtime, but they could not convert either of their last second shots in the first two overtimes. In the third overtime Bethel converted their free throws and made quality shots to outscore Holy Cross 8-2 and secure the hard-fought win. Bethel again got balanced scoring from Tyler Urban (16 pts.), Quentin Cuevas (13 pts.), Jeremy Smith (11 pts.), Grant Reed (10 pts.), and Brady Klein (9 pts.) to gain the victory.
In the championship game Bethel’s man-to-man defense was smothering to produce a 52-34 win over the Bloomington Trinity #1 team. Quentin Cuevas (11 pts.), Tyler Urban (10 pts.), and eight points each from Brady Klein and Luke Wise led the team in scoring. Both Quentin Cuevas and Tyler Urban were selected to the six-member All-Tournament team, and Tyler was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The championship was the team’s third consecutive first place finish and the fourth championship in the last five years.
The 10-team BALL National Basketball Tournament was held on March 6 - 8, 2020, in Grand Blanc, MI, and Bethel’s opening round game had Bethel defeating Bay City, MI, Immanuel 65-34 with all seven players scoring and being led by Quentin Cuevas’ 17 points, Luke Wise’s 12 points, Mason Collins’ 11 points and Jeremy Smith’s 9 points. The semifinal game was a tale of two halves with a halftime score of 15-11 in favor of Bethel, but the offense did show up in the second half to score 37 points to win the game 52-31. Balanced scoring again was paramount for Bethel with Tyler Urban (12 pts), Quentin Cuevas and Jeremy Smith (11 pts each), and Grant Reed (10 pts) leading the way.
The National championship game found Bethel facing the #1 seed and host church, Faith Lutheran from Grand Blanc, MI. Bethel held a 27-25 lead at halftime, but pulled away in the third quarter and withstood a three-point barrage by Faith Lutheran in the fourth quarter to win the game 62-55. The game was full of strategy and execution on both sides in a hostile atmosphere, but Bethel prevailed with Tyler Urban (20 pts), Jeremy Smith (15 pts) and Grant Reed (9 pts) as the team’s leading scorers. The BALL National championship is Bethel’s third overall, matching their finishes in 2016 and 2018.
“This year’s team was the deepest team talent wise that I’ve ever had with 12 quality players, and all from Washington,” according to head coach Dave Kinsinger. “They all had special talents that we could use to adapt to any game situation, but we rarely had our full team available to us during the regular season. In fact, we only had one loss when we had our full roster, and we finished with a record of 18-4. It was a group that got along well and enjoyed playing together. Because there were eight seniors on this team, we’ll have some major holes to fill next year.”
“Overall, we had 28 players total in our Bethel Lutheran Church high school youth basketball program this year, which is the most players that we’ve ever had. We fielded three teams in our Central Illinois Lutheran Youth Basketball League, and we entered two of our teams into all of the local tournaments. We provide a great opportunity in a Christian environment for individuals that like the game of basketball and aren’t able to use their talents in their area high school programs.”
“I feel very blessed to have been a part of our church’s’ high school youth basketball ministry for many years now, and I have devoted assistant coaches in Fred Schmidgall and Michael Remmele. I enjoy working with our youth of today, and I’ve developed many great friendships along the way. I wish there were more area churches that would be willing to open their doors to serve this need, and we’ll see where God leads us. If anyone would like to learn more about our area high school youth basketball ministries, they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always interested in talking basketball.”
Bethel Lutheran’s high school youth basketball rosters for 2019-2020 included: Alex Berger, Quentin Cuevas, Brandon Johnson, Brady Klein, Rylan McQueary, Grant Reed, David Russell, Jeremy Smith, Tyler Urban, Mason Collins, Andrew Cushman, Jesse Golden, Kizer Teague, Max Arnold, Isaiah Dravis, Easton Harris, Matt Lawson, Isaac Lehman, Ken Ober, Elijah Snyder, Jacob Stock, Luke Wise, Keegan Isbell, Maks Orkies, Gabe Peters, Gavin Reay-Simmons, Michael Stock, and Gabe Telger.