Feb. 28 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After winning its conference-record 13th PAC championship Saturday, the Bethany College men’s basketball team will play Manchester (Ind.) College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night at Wooster, who will host the four-team regional this weekend.
The Bison (21-7) captured the conference title with a 74-67 victory Saturday night at top-seeded Thiel in the PAC Tournament Championship game. Trailing by one with four minutes to go, BC closed the game with a 14-6 run, which included going 7-for-8 from the foul line in that stretch. Junior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) compiled 19 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and five steals, while sophomore Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) also fired in 19.
This trip to the NCAA Tournament will be the Bison’s seventh in school history and fourth in the last eight years. Bethany last made the national playoffs in 2008 when current seniors Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) and Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview) were freshmen and suffered a 92-70 loss at Capital in the first round. The Bison have won two NCAA Tournament games in school history. The first was a 70-68 victory at Rose-Hulman in the 1978 tournament. Then in 2002, Bethany advanced to the second round of the NCAAs by defeating Pitt-Bradford 110-98 in the opening game.
The Bison’s opening round opponent is Manchester, which is located 35 miles west of Fort Wayne, Ind. After finishing the regular season as the top seed in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) with a 15-3 record, the Spartans (21-6) earned their spot in the NCAA Tournament by winning the (HCAC) Tournament.
Like Bethany, Manchester trailed at halftime of the championship game to Hanover by two, but used an 18-6 run early in the second half to seize control and go on for a 79-69 victory. Senior guard Mitch Schaefer scored a team-high 19 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the arc and 6-10 junior center Jason Spindler was named Tournament MVP after scoring 18 points.
This will be Manchester’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 when they lost to eventual national champion Wisconsin-Platteville 74-65 in the second round. This was the first conference tournament championship for the Spartans since 1995 when, under former University of Indiana star and current New Mexico head coach Steve Alford, the team finished as the national runner-up.
The winner of the Bethany-Manchester contest will move on to the second round Saturday against the winner of the other first round game between Wooster and Benedictine. Wooster, who is ranked fifth in the country in the D3Hoops.com poll, posted a 26-2 record this season and won the NCAC regular season and tournament titles. Benedictine went 21-7 this year and won the Northern Athletics Conference championship. The two first round winners will meet Saturday night at Wooster.