NORTH NEWTON — Friends senior guard Romar Jones made a three-pointer from the corner on Saturday, beat his chest and let out a scream.
It's not uncommon for basketball players to flaunt their accomplishments, but Jones' display was part of a bigger picture for the Falcons. With their 70-52 win at Bethel, they improved to 6-0 in the KCAC and won for the 10th time in 11 games after starting 1-4.
Friends' swagger was evident on Saturday when it continued to pour it on in the second half against the Threshers, building the lead to 20 points in the final minute. Jones led all scorers with 21 points.
"We started off a little rough, but our chemistry is coming together," Jones said. "This is a new unit and everything. Working hard in practice is starting to show on the floor now."
Actually, that process started in late November, when the Falcons (11-5, 6-0) began a streak which has seen them lose only a non-conference road game to Oklahoma Baptist.
The quickness and efficiency of Friends' guards Saturday proved too much for Bethel (5-10, 3-3). The Threshers couldn't keep the Falcons' perimeter players from getting to the basket, and Bethel's pressure was only good enough to produce six Friends turnovers.
Friends didn't have a giveaway until midway through the first half, and their first turnover after halftime came even deeper into the half. Its only two second-half turnovers came on offensive fouls.
"We played a second half where we really knew where we wanted to get the basketball," Friends coach Dale Faber said. "The guys listen so well and execute. And also, we locked down defensively and we're just a better team when we can get out and run the lanes a little bit."
While Jones' performance was perhaps the most flashy, the other Friends guards provided plenty. Jones, Avery Richardson, Chris Heard Brett Steven and Chris Jackson scored all but eight of the Falcons' points while making 25 of 43 shots.
Heard and Steven came off the bench, but Faber has grown so comfortable with his perimeter players that he used a four-guard lineup at times.
"The good thing about what we're able to do with our rotation is that if you don't guard or you don't box out, somebody else will because they're all hungry to play," Faber said. "That makes it pretty exciting. Instead of guys coming off the bench and playing like they belong on the bench, they're trying to show their teammates and their coaches that they don't."
Four of Friends' six conference wins have come on the road, where the Falcons are 7-4 this season. Faber credits that to his team keeping a sense of urgency even with a comfortable lead.
The Falcons turned a four-point halftime lead into a double-digit cushion seven minutes into the second half and continued to build it until a basket with a minute to go made it 70-50.
Defending the perimeter was key for Friends in the second half. Bethel kept Friends from pulling away before halftime by making four three-pointers. The Threshers had one three-pointer in the final 20 minutes while Friends limited inside players Justin Schneider and Matt Regier.
"They kind of run a similar offense, so we are used to doing it in practice," Jones said. "We've been practicing pretty hard, watching film. It was pretty easy to lock down because we do the same thing in practice."
FRIENDS: Jackson 3-5 1-2 8, Jones 7-18 4-4 21, Hyde 2-8 2-4 4, Ellis 0-3 2-2 2, Richardson 5-7 0-0 10, Hull 0-0 0-0 0, Heard 7-10 2-4 16, Steven 3-4 0-0 7, O'Nelio 0-0 0-0 0, Bridges 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 11-16 70.
BETHEL: M. Regier 2-3 4-5 8, Schneider 4-12 2-3 10, Ronnebaum 4-12 1-1 10, Watson 4-9 0-0 10, Gingerich 3-6 0-0 7, E. Regier 0-0 0-0 0, Grove 3-9 0-0 7, Benton 0-0 0-0 0, Sullivan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 7-9 52.
Halftime—Friends 33-29. Three-point shooting— Friends 5-15 (Jones 3-8, Steven 1-2, Jackson 1-3, Richardson 0-2); Bethel 5-19 (Watson 2-4, Gingerich 1-2, Ronnebaum 1-3, Grove 1-5, Sullivan 0-2, Schneider 0-3). Rebounds—Friends 32 (Heard 7), Bethel 27 (M. Regier 6). Total fouls—Friends 12, Bethel 16. Assists—Friends 12 (Jackson 3), Bethel 11 (Schneider, Ronnebaum, Watson, Gingerich, E. Regier 2).