BELOIT -- The Barkin Arena had emptied out long before Beloit Memorial's Purple Knights emerged from their locker room after hearing head coach Dondre Bell's analysis of their performance Tuesday night.
He was upset and didn't pull any punches after his team was thumped by visiting Madison La Follette, 86-50, at Barkin Arena.
"Obviously La Follette is a very good basketball team," the first-year head coach said. "At the same time, if we can execute a game plan for 14 minutes, then we can do it for 36. We get into 'hero ball' and we can't have that. There are a lot of bad habits we have to change and we're in the process of doing that. It isn't easy."
Had Beloit knocked down a few more shots early on, the game would have looked a lot different after those first 14 minutes. The Knights never led, but after falling behind 27-18, Tejon Freemanl's two treys helped pull them within 27-26. They were within 35-31 with 2:56 remaining on a jumper by Jaden Bell, but the Lancers scored the final three baskets of the first half, including treys by Donneil Gray and Troy Reeves, to lead 45-31.
The second half was just more of the same. The Lancers, on the strength of outside shooters Gray and Reeves, used an 11-4 run to go up 58-37. Reeves, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, led La Follette with 27 points. He had four treys and Gray, a 5-9 senior, had three on his way to 21 points.
The Knights lost their own focus on offense, forgoing teamwork and rushing shots, usually off-the-mark treys.
"That's what I call 'hero ball,'" Bell said. "When we were running our sets we looked good. After that, they could care less about running them and that's the mind-set we have to change. It's difficult. If our game plan wasn't working, we'd know it in the first 5 minutes of the game because we'd be getting blown out. That hasn't been the case."
In their previous three losses, the Knights charged out to a lead only to lose at Monroe in overtime, at home when they faded against Janesville Craig and at Sun Prairie when they couldn't hang on at the end.
Against the Lancers, they were basically hanging close and then collapsed at both ends.
"Alll of a sudden we fell apart," Bell said. "Some of that is on the coaching staff for not making sure guys stay focused and pulling some faster when they start the hero ball. Moving forward we're going to look different. I love our seniors, but at the same time if we have to make some adjustments and play some younger kids it's going to happen. We're going to do what's best for the program."
Bell hasn't lost faith in his Knights.
"Are we one of the best teams in the Big Eight?" he said. "Absolutely not. But I feel we can compete with every team we play and steal some wins from some good teams."
The Knights have their work cut out for them.
"We had to play zone because we don't have guys capable of playing man-to-man for 36 minutes," he said. "That's something we have to continue to teach these young men. They still struggle with some of the basic fundamentals of basketball."
• NOTES: La Follette had 12 three-pointers. ...Jaden Bell was the lone Knight in double figures with 10 points.
• BOXSCORE: Madison La Follette 86, Beloit Memorial 50.
MADISON LA FOLLETTE (fg-fga ft-fta pts) - Do. Gray 9 0-2 21, Da. Gray 1 0-2 2, Probst 3 2-2 10, Reeves 10 3-3 27, Stewart 4 1-1 12, Franchini 1 2-2 4, De. Gray 2 0-0 4, Tobar 1 4-4 6. Totals: 31 11-16 86.
BELOIT MEMORIAL (fg ft-fta pts) France 0 3-6 3, Ringer 3 2-2 9, Payne 0 2-4 2, Cook 1 0-0 2, Freeman 2 0-0 6, Bell 4 0-0 10, Smith 1 1-2 3, Bach 2 0-0 4, Chandler 1 0-0 2, Boyd 2 1-1 6, Ganiyu 1 0-1 2. Totals: 17 10-17 50.
Madison La Follette.45 41 - 86
Beloit Memorial.....31 19 - 50
3-pt. Goals - LF 12 (Do. Gray 3, Reeves 4, Stewart 3, Probst 2), BM 6 (Freeman 2, Bell 2, Boyd, Ringer). Fouled out - none. Total fouls - La Follette 14, BM 14.