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#25 BETHANY REPEATS AS PAC CHAMPION WITH 58-53 WIN OVER THOMAS MORE
Feb. 25 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) scored 16 points and sophomore Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) tallied 15 to lead the #25 Bethany College men’s basketball team to a hard-fought 58-53 victory over Thomas More in the PAC Tournament Championship Game.
With the win, the Bison repeat as PAC champions and win their 14th conference crown, the most in PAC history. Now with a 25-3 overall, BC has broken the single-season school record for victories previously set in 2004-05. Thomas More finishes the season with a 20-8 record.
The first half was highlighted by a stifling Bison defense, which limited Thomas More to just 19 percent shooting (5-26). The Saints’ Phil Feinberg hit a lay-up with 10:22 left in the half and it would be the final field goal of the opening stanza for the visitors. Leading 17-15 with 5:22 to go in the period, Bethany rolled off a 13-2 surge to build a 30-17 lead going into halftime.
Addy, who buried a three for the final points before the break, dropped in 10 before halftime. In addition to holding TMC to just 17 points, the Green and White converted eight turnovers into 11 points on their end.
The opening points of the second half was a lay-up by Thomas More’s Colt Stafford, but another trey by Addy highlighted a 9-0 run that took Bethany’s lead to 39-19 with 16:32 to play. Just when it looked like BC was in position to put the game away, the Saints heated up from the outside and Bethany went cold. Three-pointers by Todd Krohman and Daniel Whelan helped the Saints chip into the deficit, but when Bison junior James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) hit a lay-up with 10:09 to go, it was still a 45-31 BC lead.
However, that proved to be the final field goal of the contest for Bethany, who would have to win it with defense and free throw shooting. Thomas More climbed back into the game with a 14-3 run to chop the Bison lead to 48-45 with 5:19 to play. A couple missed free throws helped keep the Saints in it and when Ryan Hamm cashed in a three-pointer with 38 seconds left, BC held the slimmest of leads at 52-51.
Bethany would finally secure the victory and their sixth PAC Tournament championship in 11 years by hitting clutch foul shots. Addy stepped up first by swishing a pair with 37 seconds left. Mabery then made a steal on the other end, one of his five thefts on the night, and was fouled. He buried both of those attempts and two more with five seconds to play following a TMC bucket to provide the winning margin. Once the final buzzer sounded, the raucous student section stormed the court to join the celebration with the record-setting Bison.
In last year’s PAC Title Game win at Thiel, Bethany converted 27-of-33 from the foul line in a 74-67 triumph. The foul line proved to be deciding factor again this season, as the Bison were 23-of-30 (77 percent), which countered the team’s 30 percent shooting from the floor. Mabery was the top man in points with 16 and at the charity stripe, as he sank 12-of-14 from the line.
Addy stepped up by setting a new career-high with 15 points, while Barton rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10. Senior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) recorded nine points and seven boards before fouling out and junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) scored eight points and matched his career-high with 13 rebounds.
Leading Thomas More in the game was Stafford with 15 points and Spencer Berlekamp with 11.
The victory and conference title also gives Bethany the PAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be the program’s eighth overall trip to the Big Dance and second in a row after last year’s loss in the opening round to Manchester. The NCAA Tournament pairings and locations will be announced Monday at noon.