Ben Zonca made his presence known at the right time.
The junior forward hit a non-traditional four-point play with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter to help Bethlehem pull away for a 67-59 victory over Mohonasen in Friday’s Suburban Council South Division boys basketball game in Rotterdam.
The victory ended Bethlehem’s three-game losing streak and gave the Eagles (5-8 league, 6-9 overall) a confidence boost entering the final three games of the regular season.
`It was good to get a win,` said Bethlehem coach A.G. Irons. `Mohonasen’s (2-13) record doesn’t reflect the hustle and the talent they have.`
The key sequence of the game began at the other end of the floor when Mohonasen’s Michael Fusco was called for a charge as he drove for what could have been a layup that cut Bethlehem’s tenuous lead to 57-56. Instead, the Eagles got the ball back with a 57-54 lead.
`There are probably 15 calls a game that I wish (the referees) didn’t call,` said Irons. `Some calls go your way, and some calls don’t.`
Zonca took matters into his own hands on Bethlehem’s possession. He hit a shot as he was fouled near the basket to put the Eagles ahead by five points. Mohonasen coach Ken Dagostino was then whistled for a technical foul as he protested the original foul call, which gave Zonca three free throws.
Zonca made the first two foul shots and missed the third, but it was enough to give Bethlehem the breathing room it needed to pull out the victory.
`Ben’s been great for us all year,` said Connor Morrelli. `He’s been great underneath (the basket) hitting tough shots and grabbing rebounds and doing all the dirty work.`
Bethlehem trailed Mohonasen by as many as five points in the third quarter before John Sica got on track. The junior forward — who recently returned after missing several games with tendonitis — scored five of the Eagles’ eight points late in the third quarter to put Bethlehem ahead 42-39. Only a Jeffrey Wicks three-pointer with five seconds left in the period allowed Mohonasen to pull even entering the fourth quarter.
`We knew we had to battle back,` said Sica. `We just started playing together better, and everything fell into place.`
The two teams traded the lead five times in the fourth quarter before Morrelli drained a three-pointer to give Bethlehem a 55-53 advantage. Christopher Richardson made one out of two free throws to pull Mohonasen within one point before Sica made a critical basket off a pass from Zonca to put the Eagles ahead 57-54.
Sica finished with a team-high 21 points, while Morrelli contributed 14 points — nine of which came in the fourth quarter — for Bethlehem. Wicks paced Mohonasen with 22 points.
The Eagles will try to carry the momentum from Friday’s victory into Tuesday’s game against Averill Park (8-5, 8-7).
`It’s a huge motivation going into next week,` said Morrelli. `If we get hot, we could maybe surprise some teams at Sectionals.`