Feb. 24 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The second-seeded Bethany men’s basketball team trailed by 12 at halftime to #7 Thiel Tuesday in the PAC Tournament Quarterfinals, but sophomore Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio) rifled in 21 of his career-high 25 points in the second half to rally the Bison (16-10) to a 74-69 victory over the upset-minded Tomcats (2-23).
BC led by five (16-11) with eight minutes gone in the first half, but the visitors seized control with 12 consecutive points, six coming from Nick Sefscik, to forge a 23-16 advantage. Bethany moved back within four a couple minutes later, but Thiel closed the half with a flurry. They outscored the hosts 11-3 over the final 6:33, highlighted by a three from Justin Grogan just before the halftime horn, to carry a 40-28 advantage into intermission.
The difference in the first half was three-point shooting, as Thiel was 5-for-8 and Bethany missed all six of their chances from the arc, and foul shooting, as the Tomcats converted 11-of-13 chances at the line and BC went just 2-for-6.
After a couple sloppy minutes of play to open the second half, Bethany began their comeback. They scored seven quick points to ignite a 14-2 run and tied the game at 42 on foul shots by junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) at the 14:41 mark. Thiel responded with a 9-2 spurt to move back in front 51-44, but BC answered with 11 of the next 14 points and Matz’s three-point play gave Bethany a 55-54 lead, their first since midway through the opening half.
The teams exchanged scores the next couple possessions and the contest was tied at 60 with 5:43 to go. Matz stepped up with back-to-back lay-ups to put Bethany ahead for good, but the feisty Tomcats did not go away easily. After the Bison were in front 71-65, TC moved within a bucket following free throws from Sefscik and Cory Chafee. Matz canned a foul shot with 18 seconds to play to push the lead to 72-69. The Tomcats had possession from the side following a timeout, but BC freshman Jimmy Reeves (Macedonia, Ohio/Nordonia) deflected the inbounds pass and made the steal. He got the ball to Matz, who was fouled and he buried both free throws to wrap up the win to extend the Bison’s season-long win streak to four.
The 12-point halftime deficit was the largest overcome by a Bison team since Jan. 16, 2002, when they trailed at Westminster by 13 at the break, but rallied for a 78-77 victory.
Matz was masterful in the contest, as he hit 9-of-15 from the floor and was 7-for-9 from the foul line to register his career-high 25 points. Freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Testa did not miss. His 11 points and 11 rebounds marked his seventh double-double of the season.
Thiel’s upset bid was sparked by Sefscik, who fired in 23 points, and Chafee, who contributed 20 markers. Although the Tomcats finished the game shooting 54 percent (7-13) from deep and 83 percent from the foul line (24-29), they were hurt by Bethany’s 42-24 rebounding advantage.
Bethany will be in action again on Thursday in the tournament semifinals when they host Westminster in a 7 p.m. tip-off at Hummel Field House. The third-seeded Titans cruised past Waynesburg Tuesday 94-78. The other semifinal will feature #4 Washington & Jefferson, a 74-68 quarterfinal winner over #5 Grove City, at #1 Thomas More. Thursday’s winner will match-up in the PAC Tournament Championship game Saturday at the highest remaining seed.