The Bethel College Pilots were on a mission to win a national championship in the final season of coach Mike Lightfoot’s career, but the dream came to an end on Saturday, March 11. The Pilots had advanced to the Elite 8 of the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament, but lost in overtime to Bellevue University 77-75. The Pilots finished the season with a 30-5 record and won both the Crossroads league regular season championship and tournament championship. They received a top seed in the NAIA Tournament in Missouri and won their first two games before falling in the third round.
This season took on extra significance because in January legendary coach Mike Lightfoot announced his plans to retire at the end of the season. The team overcame injuries to several key players, including Caleb Oetjen, Clay Yeo and Ryan Wassink. They just kept winning and winning even when they were shorthanded. At times it seemed like the Pilots were a team destined to win it all for coach Lightfoot.
The Pilots actually led by 15 points early in the second half of the game against Bellevue, but the Bruins kept chipping away at that lead and the Pilots went cold, connecting on just 36 percent of their shots from the field and only two three pointers. Bethel actually trailed by two points with 31 second left in regulation, but Clay Yeo hit a clutch shot to send the game into overtime. The two teams were tied with as the overtime neared an end, but the Bruins got a hoop to go up two with under five seconds left in the game. The Pilots called timeout and drew up a play for Clay Yeo to take the final shot, but his attempt fell short.
Yeo led the Pilots with 20 points, while Jordyn Coon added 18.