The victory raises the Bison’s record to 16-10 and moves them into Saturday night’s PAC Championship Game at 7:30 p.m. against third-seeded Washington & Jefferson (14-13), who advanced with a 64-63 win at Grove City Thursday. The Saints saw their season end with an 11-16 record.
The points came fast and furious throughout the contest, as BC hit a trio of treys, including two from sophomore Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity), in the first three minutes to sprint out to a 13-4 lead. TMC responded with a 13-3 spurt to claim a 17-16 lead, but it was a short-lived advantage. Bethany took the lead again on a triple from senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) and later used an 11-1 spurt to push their advantage up to double figures. The half concluded with junior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) canning a three just before halftime to send Bethany into the break with a 50-40 lead.
Both teams were on fire in the first 20 minutes. Morando had 11 to lead a Bison squad that shot 53 percent (19-36) from the floor and 47 percent (9-19) from the arc. Leading Thomas More, who hit 53 percent (16-30) from the field and 67 percent (6-9) from deep, was Matty Owens with 12.
Bison junior Carey Palermo (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) drained a three to open the second half but BC spent the majority of the second stanza holding the Saints at bay. Thomas More cut the deficit to single digits four times in the first eight minutes of the stanza, with the last coming on an Eddie Brown three-pointer with 12:03 remaining to make it a 66-59 BC advantage.
Bethany answered a few minutes later, as Jackson cashed in a jumper and a three to spark a 12-4 run that swelled BC’s advantage to a game-high 17 at 82-65 with 7:08 to play. However, the Saints still wouldn’t go away, as they clawed their way back into the contest with a 10-1 spurt, highlighted by consecutive jumpers from Brown, to shrink the BC lead to 89-81.
The final 2:24 turned into a foul shooting contest and the Bison were up to the challenge. Morando and freshman Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio) both went 3-for-4 from the line during the final minutes to pace Bethany’s efforts at the line. BC’s 12-for-16 showing down the stretch allowed the Green and White to shoot 74 percent (32-43) for the game from the charity stripe and helped the Bison secure their spot in Saturday’s championship clash.
In addition to their foul shooting, Bethany was aided by a 42-30 rebounding advantage that included 15 offensive caroms. It also balanced out the Bison’s 17 turnovers, which were converted into 28 Saints points.
Six different Bison notched double digits in the victory, led by 21 from Jackson, who also handed out a game-high six assists. Morando rifled in 18 and hauled down eight boards, while sophomore Jonas Ankrom (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan) had 14 markers and six rebounds. The double figure scorers were rounded out by Testa and Matz with 12 each and Palermo with 10. Junior forward Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) collected nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds as well.
Thomas More’s offense was spearheaded by Brown and Owens with 27 points each and Kurt Bovard with 12 off the bench.
Saturday’s title tilt will be the rubber match between the Bison and Presidents. BC scored an 86-83 overtime triumph Jan. 23 in Washington, while W&J returned the favor with a 73-70 victory in Bethany Feb. 23. The Bison are gunning for their PAC-record 12th conference championship, while the Presidents, who have won nine league crowns, are playing in their second straight PAC title match. W&J dropped a 60-58 decision at home against Grove City in last year’s final.