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Feb. 27 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After capturing its second consecutive and 14th PAC championship Saturday, the Bethany College men’s basketball team learned this afternoon it will open the 2012 NCAA Tournament Thursday at St. Mary’s (Md.) College. Game time for Thursday will be announced later.

The winner of the Bethany/St. Mary’s tilt will advance to play at Virginia Wesleyan Saturday, March 3rd. The Marlins (25-3), who won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) this year, earned one of two byes into the second round of the Tournament.

The Bison repeated as PAC champions with a hard-fought 58-53 victory over Thomas More Saturday night before a boisterous home crowd. Despite not scoring a field goal over the final 10 minutes, BC earned the crown at the foul line, going 23-for-30 from the foul line, including 6-for-6 in the final 37 seconds. Junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands), who made the final four from the charity stripe, finished with a game-high 16 points and sophomore Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) scored a career-high 15 points in the win.

This marks the second straight and eighth overall NCAA appearance for the Bison. Last season, Bethany went to Wooster and played Manchester (Ind.) College in the opening round. After falling behind 15-0 to open the game, BC whittled the deficit to single digits, but the comeback fell short in a 70-58 setback. The Bison are aiming to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2001 when the Green and White knocked off Pitt-Bradford on the road 110-98 in the opening round before falling to eventual national champion Otterbein in the second round.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Bethany and St. Mary’s, but the teams do have one common opponent this season. The Bison won at Frostburg State 74-73 on Dec. 12 thanks to a free throw from junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) with three second to play. Frostburg State and St. Mary’s are both in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC), so they squared off three times this season.  The first came in the Pride of Baltimore Tournament in November and SMC won that match-up 62-57.

The first conference game between the schools came on Jan. 14 and Frostburg claimed an 85-72 victory on their home floor. Then in the regular season finale, St. Mary’s won by a 95-81 count, which helped the Seahawks clinch the top seed in the CAC Tournament. In the conference playoffs, the Seahawks were upset in the opening round by eventual champion York (Pa.) College 61-58.

Due to that loss, St. Mary’s, who finished 19-7 this year, had to earn an at-large bid to the Tournament. They will be making their third straight trip to the NCAAs and looking to make another deep run. Two years ago, SMC advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and last year, the Seahawks scored wins over Medger Evers, Randolph-Macon and Buffalo State before losing to Middlebury in the Elite Eight.