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BETHANY IN 1ST PLACE AFTER PULLING OUT 70-67 WIN AT THIEL
Feb. 11 - GREENVILLE, Pa. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team trailed by as many as 13 in the second half, but came all the way back to pull out a 70-67 victory at Thiel Saturday to take over sole possession of first place in the PAC.
The Bison (20-3, 12-2) were forced to rally from the start of the game, as Chace McKinney scored seven during the Tomcats’ (15-7, 12-3) 13-2 spurt to open the contest. It was a 24-14 TC advantage when the Bison made their biggest run of the half. Consecutive lay-ups by junior Brady Pacific (Avonmore, Pa./Kiski) capped a 13-6 surge to trim the hosts’ lead to 30-27 with 6:38 to go before halftime.
Thiel would answer back with a 16-6 run to close the opening stanza and carry a 46-33 lead into halftime. The Tomcats shot a sizzling 69 percent (18-26) and were led by Anthony Harvey with 13 first-half points. The Bison made just 32 percent (13-40) from the floor in the opening period and were paced by Pacific with nine.
The Tomcats still had the momentum early in the second half following a Harvey bucket to make a 50-37 score with 17 minutes to go. That’s when BC took control. A dunk by senior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) helped the Green and White trim the deficit down to 54-45. Then a tip-in by Alexander ignited a 15-0 blitz by the Bison. Junior James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) canned back-to-back treys and Pacific sank one from the corner to give Bethany its first lead of the game. The run was capped by consecutive hoops by Wilcox and junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) and Bethany was on top 60-54 with 8:22 left.
Although the Bison did not lose the lead again, they did have to hold off several Thiel charges. The Tomcats closed the margin to one on three occasions, but one Wilcox basket and two by Pacific kept BC in front. Bethany could have secured the win at the foul line but missed three free throws in the final 24 seconds to keep TC’s hopes alive. As time ticked down, a three by Thiel’s Blair Rozenblad was off the mark and after gathering in the rebound, a final shot by Devon Adams just before the horn was blocked by Bison sophomore Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) and Bethany clinched a win that ended the Tomcats’ 18-game regular season home winning streak.
The key to Bethany’s second half resurgence was their work on the glass, as they finished the day with a 45-35 advantage on the boards, including 22 offensive rebounds. That came after Thiel owned a 50-31 margin in rebounding in the first meeting won by the Tomcats on Jan. 11th. The Bison work on their offensive end led to 23 second-chance points.
Four players finished in double digits for Bethany, led by Wilcox, who notched his sixth double-double of the year with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Pacific cashed in 16 markers off the bench and Alexander, who missed the previous two games due to injury, came back with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, which also gives him six doubles-doubles for the year.
Rounding out the top scorers was Barton with nine of his 11 coming after halftime. Addy also delivered a strong effort with six points and seven rebounds, six coming on the offensive end.
Leading the way for Thiel was Harvey with 21 points, McKinney with 16 and Rozenblad with his own double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bethany win still leaves a very tightly-packed group at the top of the standings. At 12-2, the Bison are a half-game in front of Thiel and Thomas More, who both sit at 12-3, and a full game ahead of Saint Vincent at 11-3. Bethany will try to extend their conference lead Wednesday when it hosts Westminster at 8 p.m., while Thomas More hosts Saint Vincent and Thiel will have the night off.