Pilots’ No. 24 Tanner Shepherd plays against ND’s No. 35 Bonzie Colson in the exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion.

Despite the stone’s throw distance between Bethel College and the University of Notre Dame, the Helm and the Golden Dome are icons of different worlds. On Nov. 3, Bethel’s NAIA men’s basketball team met Notre Dame’s powerhouse D-1 basketball program at Purcell Pavilion for an exhibition game.

Bethel Head Coach Ryne Lightfoot ’10, ’13, reflected on how the event brought the Bethel and Michiana communities together, including local fans, students, staff, faculty and alumni.

“I think it provided a lot of energy and excitement around our program and it was just a neat community event for people, too,” Lightfoot said.

A pregame tailgate, sponsored by Bethel’s Institutional Advancement Office, took place at Gate B of the Notre Dame football stadium. One thousand fans enjoyed burgers, hot dogs, and an assortment of other delicious food, and picked up Bethel blue basketball T-shirts to wear at the game.

Fans gather for a pregame tailgate before the event.

Following the tailgate, the game got under way. While seeing Bethel’s Gage Ott boxing out Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson was an unusual sight, fans found it exciting. And despite the 88-59 loss, Bethel’s coaching staff and players felt good about their performance.

“I thought our guys competed pretty well,” Lightfoot noted, “I think we earned a lot of respect from the Notre Dame guys in terms of [our] style of play.”

“I actually think that we played great,” junior guard Trey’von Covington said. “We showed a lot of grit … we went into the game [with] everybody thinking that we could beat them. Eight minutes left in the second half, when they separated from us, we were in the game, so that was kind of a big deal for us. We just made some key mistakes early that a young team does.”

Many alumni were excited about the game as well. Phil Wertz ’10, ’11, won tickets in a raffle at Bethel’s alumni dinner a month prior. He and his son, Bronson, sat right behind the bench.

“I thought the sellout crowd at the game was cool,” Wertz said.“There were just as many Bethel fans as Notre Dame fans there. In fact, I heard some of the Notre Dame fans sitting behind me say that an exhibition game like this one never sells out.”

In the end, the event brought national attention to Bethel College and showcased friendly fire between two respected basketball programs.

Clay Sidenbender is a freshman English and Communication major who also writes for the Bethel Beacon.