BETHANY’S PAC TITLE QUEST BEGINS TUESDAY AGAINST WESTMINSTER
Feb. 22 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team will begin their quest for a PAC-record 13th conference title when they host sixth-seeded Westminster Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Hummel Field House.
The #3 Bethany/#6 Westminster game is one of three quarterfinal games on tap for Tuesday night. Second-seed Thomas More (19-6, 9-3) will host #7 Waynesburg (2-21, 0-12) and #4 Thiel (14-10, 7-5) will entertain #5 Washington & Jefferson (11-14, 6-6) in the other games, while #1 Grove City (17-8, 9-3) has a bye into the semifinals. Grove City will host the lowest remaining seed Thursday, while the middle two seeds will play in Thursday’s other semifinal. The PAC Championship game is scheduled for Saturday.
The Bison (17-7, 8-4) continued to build momentum for the tournament when they rallied to defeat Washington & Jefferson 66-63 Saturday, their third consecutive victory and eighth in the last 10 games. W&J took a nine-point halftime lead, but Bethany forced 13 second-half turnovers to climb back into the game. Senior forward Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) and freshman guard James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) both scored 13, while senior Jonas Ankrom (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan) had 12 and senior guard Jay Lyonett (Weirton, W.Va./Brooke) tallied 11.
Bethany will be gunning for their third win this season over Westminster. Freshman Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Twp.) led five scorers in double digits with 16, as the Bison posted an 85-67 win in New Wilmington on Dec. 2. Last year’s PAC Player of the Year Ryne Murray did not play in that game, but he was back for the second meeting and fired in a game-high 33 points. However, Lyonett cashed in six three-pointers on his way to 20 and Testa chipped in 17 to lead Bethany to an 85-73 victory at Hummel Field House Jan. 23.
This is the second consecutive year the Bison and Titans have squared off in the PAC Tournament. Last season, the teams matched-up in the semifinals in Bethany, with BC coming away with a hard-fought 71-67 triumph. Murray posted 31 points and 14 rebounds for Westminster, but no one else had more than nine on the Titan side. For Bethany, Lance Beckwith led four in double digits with 26 and Testa posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It was just the second meeting between the schools in the PAC Tournament and first since Westminster won the 2004 crown with a 97-88 victory at home over BC in the title game.
In the eight-year history of the PAC Tournament, the Bison have enjoyed a great deal of success. They have a 13-4 overall record in the playoffs, won four tournament titles and reached the championship game on two other occasions. They have been especially tough at home, posting a 12-1 mark in tournament games at Hummel Field House, with the only loss coming to W&J in the 2007 semifinals.
Westminster (7-18, 3-9) is on a four-game slide coming into the tournament, although only one of those defeats came by more than 10 points. That came Saturday when they dropped a 69-47 decision to Grove City, which clinched the #1 seed for the Wolverines. The Titans trimmed a 16-point deficit down to three with nine minutes to play, but GCC closed the game with a 20-1 blitz, as Westminster went scoreless through the final six minutes. Rob Briggs had 13 points and nine rebounds to lead the Titans, while Murray compiled 12 markers and eight boards.
After sitting out the first half of the season due to having just one semester of eligibility left, Murray is averaging 22.0 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the arc (64-144) and 82 percent from the foul line. Guard Max Spinner is the only other Titan posting double figures with 11.2 points per game, while Briggs is averaging 8.0 points and 5.7 boards per contest. The big outing from Murray in the last meeting with the Bison is typical for his career, as the 6-4 forward is averaging 25.2 points and 12.2 rebounds in six career match-ups against the Green and White, and in the last two games against BC, Murray is shooting 54 percent (14-26) from the arc.