The first half was a back-and-forth struggle, with five ties and 10 lead changes. Bethany (2-2) trailed 28-25 with 7:38 to go in the period, but senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) fired in eight points during an 11-2 surge that gave BC a 36-30 lead. A Jackson foul shot with 1:50 left in the half pushed the Bison to their biggest lead of the night at 41-34, but WJU (3-1) scored the final two buckets to trim the BC lead to 41-38 at intermission.
Jackson was the story of the first half, hitting a trio of threes and scoring 14 points for Bethany, who shot 50 percent (15-30) in the first 20 minutes.
Bethany continued to hold the lead in the early stages of the second half, as a lob into sophomore Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale) led to a hoop that gave the Green and White a 54-49 advantage with 14:50 to play. The Cardinals responded with a 13-3 spurt, keyed by a pair of triples from Maqsood Harrington, to move in front 62-57 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Bison didn’t go away, as twice they sliced the WJU lead down to a single point, the last time coming on a free throw from junior forward Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) to make it 77-76 with 2:52 to play. Harrington and Adam McFerran had baskets for the Cardinals to extend their lead back to 81-76, but it was cut to three when freshman Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio) sank two out of three free throws with 41 seconds left to bring Bethany back within a trey at 81-78.
On their last possession, Wheeling Jesuit missed a jumper and the rebound kicked out toward midcourt. Senior guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) ran down the loose ball and left a pass for Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) on the right wing. The junior guard’s rushed three-point effort was just off the front rim and BC was unable to get the rebound back out for another shot before the buzzer sounded, allowing the Cardinals to narrowly escape a second upset in their last two meetings with the Bison.
The last time the two teams faced in 2005, Bethany, who went on to win 23 games and the PAC title that season, came away with a 71-70 triumph over a Wheeling Jesuit team that eventually won 21 games and went to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
BC’s upset bid was led by Jackson, who notched 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He was joined in double-digits by Adams, who recorded a career-high 16 points, and Petkovski, who tallied 15. Adams also led the Bison with seven assists, while Petkovski led the Bethany efforts on the boards with eight.
Wheeling Jesuit’s top scorers included Harrington, who sank five threes and finished with 23 markers. Coming off the bench to total 17 was McFerren, while Lance Randall and Rusty Wooten registered 10 points each.
The Wendy’s Classic will conclude Wednesday evening when the Bison will square off with Ohio-Eastern at 6 p.m. and Wheeling Jesuit will play West Liberty State at 8 p.m. Wednesday’s contest will be the final tune-up for Bethany before they open PAC competition Saturday with a home contest against Thomas More (Ky.) College.