BETHANY, W.Va. – Senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Bethany College men’s basketball team to a 90-76 victory over Washington & Jefferson Saturday night in the PAC Tournament Championship game, which gave the Bison their PAC-record 12th conference crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
BC (17-10), which won its third league title in the last four years, will be making their sixth national tournament appearance. The selections and pairings will be announced Monday afternoon at 12 p.m.
The last four contests between Bethany and W&J (14-14) have been decided by three points each and this one had all the makings of another thriller early on. President guard Nathan Burton made an off-balance lay-up to give the visitors a 15-14 advantage with 12:20 to go in the first half. However, the Bison erupted from there to seize control heading into halftime. Sophomore forward Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) drilled two threes to ignite a 14-2 spurt, which was capped by back-to-back triples from freshman guard Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio). That run helped the Bison build a 37-28 cushion heading into the break.
Testa hit three of BC’s eight first half trifectas to lead the team with nine markers at the break. The other key stat was Bethany hauling down seven offensive rebounds, which led to 16 second chance points. The Presidents were led by Wahab Owolabi with six points at intermission.
These two rivals played one week ago in the regular season finale and the Bison rolled up a 16-point second half advantage, only to see it slip away in a 73-70 W&J win. This game took on a similar feel, as a pair of three-point plays by Jackson keyed an 11-2 run that pushed BC’s lead up to 54-36 with six minutes gone in the second half.
But just as they did last Saturday, the Presidents clawed their way back into the game. Over the next five minutes, they outscored Bethany 21-7 to trim the deficit to 61-57 with 9:38 remaining. Center Josip Lucic-Jozak, who had 21 in the comeback win last week, tossed in seven during the run, but it was Brian Felker who keyed the stretch with 12 points, including a three-pointer and conventional three-point play to close it.
However, much to the delight of a raucous home crowd, this time the Bison had an answer. On the ensuing possession after Felker’s three-point play, BC junior Petre Petkovksi (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) stepped out and buried a three, which was followed a couple possessions later by a trey from Jackson to balloon the Bethany advantage back up to 10. W&J was able to creep within single digits four times down the stretch, but the Bison answered with a basket each time to keep the Presidents at bay.
Bethany would finally clinch the win and the conference title by sinking 9-of-10 from the foul line in the final 1:27. Petkovski also added an exclamation point with a breakaway dunk to help the Bison finish off the 90-76 win, which improved their record to 13-0 this season when they score 80 or more.
Pacing the Bison offense, which drained 13 three-pointers and committed just nine turnovers in the contest, was Jackson. In his final game at Hummel Field House, he matched his season-high with 30 points and gave out four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Joining him in double figures was Petkovski with 14 and Testa and senior guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) with 13 each. Petkovski led the Bison on the glass with seven boards, while Adams handed out a game-high six assists.
Four Presidents registered double digits in the setback, led by Felker, who threw in 17 of his 22 in the second half. Lucic-Jozak totaled 17 points and nine rebounds, while Albert Varacallo had 11 and Owolabi notched 10.