Feb. 19 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team (20-4, 13-2 PAC) used an efficient scoring night and 26 points from junior guard Delonte’ Joyce (Annapolis, Md./Annapolis) to outlast Thomas More College 80-77 on Wednesday night.
Bethany came out of the gates strong, running out to an 11-2 advantage over the first five minutes of the game. Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) totaled five points in the run, while Lawrence Weldon (Baltimore, Md./Poly) notched four.
The visitors would respond to the Bison surge, rebounding with a 15-4 run of their own to reclaim a two-point lead (17-15) on a three-point basket by Eliot Pipes with 9:38 remaining in the half.
Over the next six minutes of the frame, the lead would change hands five times with neither team capturing more than a four-point advantage (27-23 Thomas More with 6:04 to play). Joyce would bring the game to a tie at 30-30 on a layup with 3:45 to go in the first stanza, but the Saints would have an answer.
With the game knotted for just the second time, Thomas More would embark on an 11-2 run that spanned just two minutes of game time, holding a 41-32 advantage on a layup by D’Carlo Hayes with 1:32 remaining.
Weldon would respond nicely for the Bison to end the first half of play. With Bethany down nine, Weldon drained a three-point basket to cut the advantage to six (41-35). He then cut the deficit further, converting on an “old fashioned” three-point play to trim the lead to three (41-38) with 31 seconds remaining. The teams would go into the half with Thomas More holding on to the same advantage.
In the second frame, the Bison retook the advantage at the 16:54 mark when Tyrone Smothers (Baltimore, Md./Mergenthaler) converted on a three-point play to give Bethany a two-point lead (45-43). Thomas More would quickly counter with a 7-0 run to regain the five-point advantage (50-45), but the Bison would not be deterred.
Bethany would answer the Thomas More run with a 9-2 run of their own. The run was capped by a three from Joyce at the 11:01 mark which gave the Bison a two-point advantage (54-52) and Bethany would never again relinquish the lead.
With the Green & White still clinging to a two-point lead (66-64) with 4:58 to play, Bethany would charge forward with a 9-2 run that was bookended by two three-point baskets by Joyce. The latter of the two gave the Bison a nine-point advantage (75-66) with 2:01 to play.
Down the stretch, the Saints would not go away, cutting into the Bethany lead once again by converting on six straight free throws in a span of 46 seconds to trim the advantage to two (77-75) with 34 seconds to play.
After Joyce converted on a pair of free throws, the Saints scored again, this time on a layup by Jalen Clark to make the advantage 79-77 in favor of the Bison with 18 ticks remaining. Joyce was then fouled and made one-of-two from the line to extend the advantage to three points with just seven seconds to go.
Joyce could not convert on the second free throw, and Thomas More took the ball down the floor with a chance to tie. Hayes took aim from the right wing, but the shot fell short of the mark. The Saints would then get the rebound and get the ball back to Hayes for another attempt from deep. Solid defense by the Bison forced Hayes’ shot to go long and the Bison held on for the three-point victory (80-77).
Offensively, the Bison shot very well from everywhere on the court. Bethany converted on 50.9 percent of their shots on the day (29-57) and shot 53.3 percent from deep (8-15). The Green & White also converted on 14-of-18 from the charity stripe.
Joyce was once again huge for the Bison, as he totaled a game-high 26 points. He was deadly accurate from deep, hitting 5-of-7 from three-point range while also adding a team-high eight rebounds and four steals in the contest. The game marked the fourth consecutive 20-point game for Joyce, who is averaging 25.2 points per game over the last two weeks.
Joining Joyce in double figures were Weldon, Addy and Jackson. Jackson totaled 14 points and five rebounds, while Addy tallied 13 points and six boards. Weldon finished with 12 points and a game-high seven assists.
The day proved to be a big one all around for Bethany, who moved into sole possession of first place in the PAC regular season standings, and now control their own destiny heading into the final game of the season. The Bison now move two games ahead of Thomas More and also now hold a one-game advantage on Saint Vincent College, who dropped a 68-62 decision to Waynesburg.
Bethany can clinch the number one overall seed in the conference playoffs with a win on Saturday over Washington & Jefferson. The game is scheduled to be played at 4 p.m. The contest will also be the last regular season home game for the five Bison seniors. All seniors from both the men’s and women’s teams will be honored during the day.