PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bethany’s Stoltzfus makes ESPN Top 10; Bruins win historic game | Sports

GOSHEN — Not even making SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays could get in the way of curfew.

“My parents did not let me stay up to watch it,” Mariah Stoltzfus said.

The Bethany Christian freshman made it onto ESPN’s flagship show in the early hours of Tuesday morning after making a 60-foot shot to end the first quarter of Monday’s game against Central Noble. Stoltzfus made her national television debut at 1:08 a.m. Tuesday, with her shot being the No. 3 play in the Top 10 countdown.

“I woke up and I had a lot of notifications from Twitter,” Stoltzfus said. “It was pretty amazing. I only know one other person who’s ever made it on the Top 10 for ESPN, so it was pretty amazing to me. I didn’t think I was going to get No. 3; I thought it’d be 8th or 9th, but somehow, I ended up in the 3-spot.”

Bruins coach Krysten Parson was also asleep when the clip first aired, but she made sure to record the show all night so she didn’t miss the moment.

“I watch SportsCenter, so you see high school games on there sometimes and things like that, but you’re like, ‘Yeah, right’ she’ll make it on there,” Parson said. “And then you see it and you’re like, ‘Hey, that’s kind of cool!’ … It’s just a cool thing to be a high school kid and make it on national news.”

The coach also made sure to point out a key fact on where Stoltzfus’ shot made it on the countdown.

“I’m a big LeBron (James) fan, and he was No. 5 and she was No. 3,” Parson said.

Parson said the team practices half-court shots the day before games, with each girl attempting one. If a player makes a shot, they get to pick whatever they want out of the candy box in Parson’s office.

Stoltzfus felt like she had the strength to make the shot from that distance, and once it left her hand, she felt confident it was going in. The shot hit nothing but net; a swish that pulled Bethany to within three points, 17-14, at the end of the first quarter.

“I didn’t really think much of it; we were still down at that point,” said Stoltzfus of the shot. “It wasn’t like that put us up or anything.”

Stoltzfus’ demeanor to the shot was replicated by her teammates, as the video clip doesn’t show a huge reaction from her teammates or coaches.

“There’s just not a lot Mariah does that surprises us anymore,” Parson said. “And not that we hold her to this high standard that she’s never going to screw up, but man, she puts people on ice skates with her crossover. She makes these ridiculous shots that some people just can’t make. She dribbles so low to the ground — and it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, Mariah does this every day.’ It was more like, ‘OK, we’re within three. Let’s go.’”

THE GAME

Stoltzfus’ shot was in the middle of one of the season’s best and more memorable games, as No. 12 (Class 1A) Bethany Christian won a thriller over No. 13 (Class 3A) Central Noble, 62-58, in three overtimes. Stoltzfus finished with a game-high 31 points, while fellow freshman Zoe Willems scored 21 points.

The victory improved Bethany to 16-6 on the season, tying for the most wins in any season in program history.

“I just think that it shows that we can play and compete at a high level,” Parson said. “I’m not discrediting us from any other 1A school, but when you’re playing 3A and 4A schools that are good and you’re able to compete at a high level with them, that changes the game. That’s what we talked about, too: they’re good, we know it, and let’s compete. … I’ll take this team any day because of their effort and level of competing.”

“We just don’t quit,” Stoltzfus added. “We’re going to go until the end of the game. If that means three overtimes, then we’re going to play for three overtimes.”

The Bruins will have a chance to set the program record for wins in their final regular season game Saturday at Mishawaka. They will then begin the postseason next Friday in the Sectional 51 semifinals against either Elkhart Christian or Fremont.

Stoltzfus said she is and her teammates are ready to go for the upcoming playoff run.

“I have a lot of confidence,” Stoltzfus said. “I feel like we can do very well in sectionals. I feel like we could do pretty well in regionals, too. We have a lot of confidence in each other and we have really good chemistry, so I think there’s a lot of trust with each other that we’re going to do well.”