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Feb. 26 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team will get a chance to repeat as PAC champions after holding off Westminster for a 71-67 victory in the tournament semifinals Thursday night in a contest that featured 15 ties and 22 lead changes.

It was the fifth consecutive victory for the second-seeded Bison, who improve to 17-10 on the year. They advance to the championship game Saturday evening at #1 seed Thomas More (18-8), who defeated #4 Washington & Jefferson 78-64 in the other semifinal. Tip-off in Crestview Hills, Ky., is scheduled for 5 p.m.

The see-saw affair started from the opening tip and lasted until the final buzzer. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half, as they swapped the advantage nine times just in the last five minutes of the half alone. Titan forward Mike Pratkanis gave the visitors a one-point lead with 2:24 left in the opening period, but the Bison took a 34-33 into the locker room at the break after two foul shots with 12 seconds left by sophomore Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy).

Westminster (10-17) opened the second half with a three from Ryne Murray and a jumper from Bobby Glass to take a 38-34 lead. However, BC answered with five straight tallies and the game continued to go back and forth. Bethany finally looked like they took some control around the midway point of the half with a 10-3 spurt. Freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) nailed five free throws and senior Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) capped the run with a trey and a lay-up to give the Bison their biggest advantage at 55-48 with 10 minutes left.

The Titans came right back however, as consecutive triples from Glass, Murray and Max Spinner pushed Westminster back in front and their lead later grew to 65-61 after a lay-in from Murray with 4:43 left. Then it was Bethany’s turn to respond. Petkovski scored on a lay-up to bring the Green and White within a basket and they retook the lead at 66-65 on a three-point play from Beckwith with 3:01 to go. Following a Titan turnover and timeout, Petkovski cashed in a trey from the left wing to extend the margin to 69-65 with just under two minutes left.

Westminster wasn’t ready to head home just yet. Murray scored with 1:30 to play to cut the BC lead to two and the Bison turned it over on their next possession. A wild sequence followed, as the Titans had four three-point attempts to try to take the lead, but all off the mark. Finally after the fourth miss, Bethany junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) ripped down the board and was fouled with 11 seconds showing. He stepped to the line and calmly sank both attempts to finally clinch the victory for the Bison and send them into the PAC championship game for the sixth time in the eight-year history of the conference tournament.

Bethany finished with four players in double digits, led by the freshman Beckwith. He tallied 20 of his team-high 26 in the second half and finished a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line. Petkovski was also big in the second half, totaling 11 of his 17 after halftime, while Testa recorded his eighth double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio) closed out the double figure scorers with 10 and also passed out five assists.

For Westminster, they came up just short despite a marvelous effort from Murray. He went 7-for-13 from the three-point line on his way to 31 points and also grabbed 14 boards.

In Saturday’s title tilt, Bethany will be looking for their first win of the year against Thomas More. The Saints swept the season series by scores of 75-61 at home Dec. 6 and then an 84-67 triumph at Hummel Field House Jan. 24. The Bison have met Thomas More just once in PAC Tournament play, as BC beat the Saints in a 105-98 shootout in the ’08 semifinals at home.