Feb. 19 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The stakes will be quite high when the Bethany men’s basketball team visits Washington & Jefferson Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams, as the winner of the match-up will earn the #2 seed for next week’s PAC Tournament.
If the Bison (14-10, 8-3) are victorious, they will be the second seed and host Thiel in the conference quarterfinals Tuesday night, while the Presidents (16-8, 7-4) would drop to the fourth seed. If W&J claims the win, they would host Thiel, and BC would enter the playoffs seeded third to take on #6 Waynesburg at Hummel Field House Tuesday.
Bethany kept themselves in the running for the second seed by holding off a determined Westminster squad 82-77 Wednesday night. The Bison saw an eight-point lead sliced to 78-77 with 2:32 to play, but a basket from junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) and two free throws from senior Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) clinched the victory. Freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) rifled in 27 points, his fourth game this season with at least 27, and Testa registered his sixth double-double of the season with 15 markers and 10 boards.
A Bison win Saturday would give them a season sweep of the Presidents, who they have defeated in nine of the last 11 meetings. In their first meeting Jan. 21, Bethany trailed by 11 points midway through the second half, but rallied to force overtime and escaped with a 79-68 triumph. Beckwith was huge in that game, scoring 11 of his career-high 34 points in the extra period and he hauled down 11 boards for his first career double-double. Petkovski added 13 points for BC, while the Presidents were paced by a Josip Lucic-Jozak, Wahab Owolabi and Albert Varacallo with 14 points each.
In their first match-up, Bethany held a distinct advantage at the foul line, a rarity this season against W&J. On that night, the Bison were 23-for-31 from the charity stripe, while the Presidents made just 11 trips to the line, making nine. It was the second-fewest foul line conversions and attempts on the season for W&J, who leads the PAC with 452 made free throws and a 75.2 free throw percentage, which is also 23rd in all of Division III. Getting to the line has not been easy against the Bison, as opponents have put up only 366 free throws against the Green and White, by far the lowest total in the league.
The Presidents used a huge advantage at the line to fight off an upset-minded Waynesburg squad Wednesday and pull out a 70-62 overtime victory. W&J made 28-of-38 attempts from the stripe, including a perfect 11-of-11 from Brian Felker, to win for the sixth time in the last eight games. Lucic-Jozak totaled 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Felker dropped in 21and pulled in nine rebounds. Owolabi scored his 1,000th career point in the victory, but played just four minutes after suffering an injury in the first half. He is questionable heading into Saturday’s showdown.
After battling one PAC Player of the Year candidate Wednesday in Westminster’s Ryne Murray, the Bison will have to contend with another possible choice in the Presidents’ Lucic-Jozak. The 6-8 center is fourth in the conference in scoring (15.1), second in rebounding (8.8) and fourth in field goal percentage (55.4). Owolabi is second on the team in both points (13.3) and boards (6.7), while Varacallo has hit a team-high 38 threes to rank third in scoring (10.8). Felker, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting with BC, provides a strong scoring punch off the bench with 10.7 points per game.