#25 BETHANY MOVES INTO TITLE GAME WITH 82-69 WIN OVER W&J
Feb. 23 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) scored a career-high 29 points and junior James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) added 21 as the 25th-ranked Bethany College men’s basketball team held off upstart Washington & Jefferson for an 82-69 win Thursday in the PAC Tournament Semifinals.
The victory not only gives the Bison a 24-3 record, which ties the single-season school record for wins, but also advances BC into the tournament championship game Saturday night. Bethany will host third-seeded Thomas More (20-7) who beat Saint Vincent 75-70 in Thursday’s other semifinal. Tip time for the title match is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Wilcox’s barrage of points started early when he hit a three to open the scoring, but the upset-minded Presidents (9-18) more than held their own and were in front by as much as five at 24-19. The BC deficit was still four later in the half when a quick 10-0 spurt put the Green and White back in the lead. Barton sank a pair of treys to spark the run and it helped propel Bethany to a 43-39 halftime lead.
The Presidents were right with the Bison due to unbelievable shooting, as they knocked down 16-of-24 (67 percent) in the opening stanza. Bethany countered by forcing nine W&J turnovers that were converted into 15 points.
The flow of the game continued to bounce back and forth, with six lead changes and three ties in the early stages of the second half. W&J’s Andy Carter knocked down a jumper with 12:38 to play to give the visitors their last lead of the contest at 52-51. Junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) converted back-to-back lay-ups to put BC back on top for good.
Those buckets also ignited a 19-4 spurt that finally gave Bethany control of the game. Mabery scored eight during that stretch and Wilcox tallied six, including a pair of foul shots with 8:34 to play that put the Bison ahead 70-56. The exclamation point went on the win around the two-minute mark when Barton’s fifth three-pointer of the night was followed immediately by a steal and thunderous dunk by sophomore Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) and Bethany was moving on to its eighth PAC Tournament title game in 11 years.
Wilcox led all scorers in the game by hitting 10-of-16 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the foul line to post a career-high 29 points. Barton went 5-for-9 from the arc to notch 21 markers and Mabery compiled 13 points, five steals and five rebounds in the victory.
For the Presidents, Zach Bellhy scored 23 points before fouling out and Carter bucketed 17.
Bethany and Thomas More split their match-ups this season, with BC winning at home 89-74 and the Saints returning the favor Feb. 1st with a 68-57 decision in Kentucky. Each team is on a roll going into the final, as the Bison have won seven in a row, but TMC has captured 10 straight. It will also be the second championship game tilt between the schools in the last four years, as Thomas More beat Bethany to win the 2009 crown.