BISON CLAIM 13TH PAC TITLE WITH 74-67 VICTORY AT THIEL
Feb. 26 - GREENVILLE, Pa. –Junior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) and sophomore Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) both scored 19 points, as the Bethany College men’s basketball team overcame a five-point halftime deficit to pull out a 74-67 victory at top-seeded Thiel Saturday night in the PAC Tournament championship game.
The win gave the Bison (21-7) a conference-record 13th PAC title, as well as the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be BC’s seventh NCAA appearance and seventh consecutive postseason trip.
The game had a strong start for the Bison, as Mabery canned two threes to highlight a 15-7 spurt to open the evening. The Tomcats (20-7) answered back with 12 consecutive points, including treys from Lance Randall and Devon Adams, to take the lead and their margin swelled to 33-24 with 3:13 left in the half on a lay-up by Ladell Trotty.
Bethany managed to trim a little off that deficit before halftime, scoring six of the final eight points of the period to make it a 35-30 Thiel lead at the break. Although BC shot only 29 percent (10-34) in the first half, they managed to stay close by forcing 10 Tomcat turnovers. Mabery led Bethany at the half with 10 points, while Thiel’s Randall also notched 10 markers before intermission.
The Tomcats led by six early in the second half when Bethany stormed right back in front with seven straight points, five coming from Alexander. That started a see-saw contest, as the second half featured six ties and nine lead changes. The final exchange happened when Thiel’s Blair Rozenblad scored on a lay-up with 4:26 to go to lift Thiel to a one-point lead, but on the next trip down the floor, a Mabery steal after a Tomcat rebound led to a baseline jumper by sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) for a 62-61 Bison lead and the Green and White never trailed again.
That bucket by Wilcox started a 14-5 game-ending run by Bethany. Sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) buried one trey and then sank all three free throws after being fouled on a three-point try to run the Bethany lead to 68-63. Thiel managed to get within three, but Alexander had a steal and two free throws with 26 seconds left and Mabery clinched the victory with a pair of foul shots with 13 seconds left as Bethany won its fifth PAC Tournament crown in the last 10 years.
The story of the game was at the foul line, as Bethany made 82 percent (27-33) in the game, including 20-of-24 in the second half. Mabery was the big producer by sinking 11-of-13 attempts from the charity stripe. By comparison, Thiel connected on only 4-of-13 in the second half and finished the night shooting 42 percent (8-19) from the free throw line.
Leading the Bison to their title win was Mabery, who matched his season-high with 19 points and made three steals, and Alexander, who amassed 19 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals. Also hitting for double figures was Barton, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half on 3-for-3 shooting from the arc and foul line, and sophomore Brady Pacific (Avonmore, Pa./Kiski), who notched 11 points and three assists.
For the Tomcats, Adams made five three-pointers to total 15 points and five assists and Aundra Jones recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Bethany will find out Monday afternoon who they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament next weekend. The Bison’s last trip to the NCAAs was in 2008 when they lost to Capital in the first round. Bethany’s last victory in the national tournament came in 2002 with a 110-98 triumph at Pitt-Bradford in the first round.