Dec. 2 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team will open defense of last year’s PAC championship Wednesday when they travel to Thomas More to take on the Saints in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off in the league opener for both teams.
The Bison are off to a 4-2 start this year, including back-to-back blowouts to build up momentum coming into Wednesday’s tilt. BC’s most recent effort was a record-setting one, as they bested Penn State-Fayette 112-31 Saturday to set school records for largest margin of victory (81) and fewest points allowed since the inception of the shot clock in 1985-86. Senior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central), who was just named PAC Player of the Week, led the rout with 21 markers in only 16 minutes of action.
Under first-year head coach Mike Summey, Bethany’s offense has continued to click at a high rate, as they rank second in the PAC in scoring (83.8) with three players averaging double digits, including Morando with 15.5, junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) with 15.2 and senior Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) at 12.0.
What has pleased first-year head coach Mike Summey is not only how well his team is shooting, as they rank second in field goal percentage (51.0) and third in three-point percentage (42.7), but how solid they’ve been on the defensive end to this point. Bethany is ranked fourth in the PAC in scoring defense (67.0), third in field goal percentage defense (40.6) and second in three-point percentage defense (27.1).
“I have been impressed with how hard our guys have played,” said Summey. “We’ve received great contributions from multiple guys. We knew the offense would be there and we’ve been shooting especially well. Defensively, we still have a long way to go, but we are doing a better job.”
Bethany and Thomas More will pick up their rivalry from last year, when the squads faced three times in games that were decided by a total of 17 points. The Saints knocked off the Bison 87-78 in Hummel Field House in last season’s PAC starter. BC returned the favor when an offensive rebound and putback from Petkovski with 11 seconds to play gave the Green and White a 77-76 victory in Kentucky. The teams squared off again in the PAC Tournament semifinals, where Bethany moved on following a 105-98 triumph that also gave the Bison a 7-5 series advantage.
This year’s Thomas More team is off to a 3-1 start, with the lone setback coming Saturday at 22nd-ranked Transylvania, 81-64. The Saints’ balanced attack also boasts three double-digit scorers, including Mark Tinklenberg (11.0), Daniel McKeehan (10.5) and Brian Muse (10.5). The TMC attack is efficient, as they are right behind Bethany in the conference rankings in field goal percentage (50.7). However, Thomas More is not strong behind the arc, ranking eighth in three-point percentage (25.5) and last in threes made (12).
Summey says the Bison have a big challenge in front of them Wednesday, especially playing against a Saints team who went 7-4 at home a year ago.
“Thomas More has emerged as one of the top teams in the PAC,” said Summey. “In Tinklenberg and (Matty) Owens, they have a couple good seniors leading the way. This is one of the two or three toughest road games in the conference, especially with their recent home record. It will be a good test for us and we expect it to be a battle, but if we continue to play extremely hard and extremely unselfish, we should have a good chance.”