Jan. 10 - BETHANY, W.Va. – By bolting out to 14-point halftime lead and staving off Grove City rallies in the second half, the Bethany men’s basketball team scored a 76-72 victory Saturday to move into sole possession of first place in the PAC.
The game was tied at 14 with seven minutes gone when a pair of players off the Bison bench ignited a 20-1 blitz. Junior Jay Lyonett (Weirton, W.Va./Brooke) started the run with a lay-up and three-pointer, which was followed by consecutive buckets from freshman Tobi Akinsola (Cary, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy). Lyonett and Akinsola, respectively, scored the next two hoops and the surge was capped by two straight scores from junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) to swell the cushion to 34-15.
Grove City, who missed all 11 shots from the floor and went just 1-for-4 from the foul line during the Bison run, managed to get back within 42-28 going into halftime. Bethany posted a 25-17 rebounding advantage by the break, which included seven offensive boards that led to 10 second-chance points.
In the second half, the Bison had to weather Wolverine attempts to get back into the game. GCC’s Ryan Gibson keyed the first surge, as he scored 11 points in the first 5:29 of the second half and his three at the 14:31 mark sliced the Bethany lead to single digits at 49-41. But BC again turned to their bench, as freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) rifled in a three and lay-in to start the Green and White’s 8-2 run that extended their advantage to 57-43.
Bethany’s lead stood at 66-54 with 3:39 left when Grove City made another charge. A quick 8-2 burst capped by a trey from Joe McCoy brought GCC within six at 68-62 with 1:45 remaining. On the Bison’s next possession, with the shot clock winding down, Beckwith launched a three from the left wing that swished through for a huge score to make it 71-62. Beckwith added four free throws in the final minute to give Bethany enough breathing room that Grove City’s six points in the final 10 seconds just made the final outcome closer.
Three Bison finished the game in double figures, led by Beckwith and Testa with 15 each and senior Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) with 13. Another big highlight to the win was the play of Bethany’s bench, who out-scored Grove City’s 33-15. In addition to Beckwith’s outing, Akinsola tallied nine points and sophomore Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) pulled down a team-leading eight rebounds.
For Grove City, Gibson’s big start to the second half helped him post a game-high 22 markers, while McCoy tallied 16 and O’Keefe chipped in with 10.
Bethany (8-6, 3-1) stands alone in first place in the league after Thomas More (4-2) was beaten at Washington & Jefferson (2-2) Saturday afternoon. Grove City (7-5, 2-2) is now tied with W&J, Waynesburg and Westminster in the league.
The Bison will wrap up their busiest stretch of the season Monday with a non-conference fray against Franciscan at Hummel Field House. BC’s fifth game in the last 10 days will tip-off at 7 p.m. Bethany will return to the PAC slate next Saturday with a road trip to Westminster.