The loss, while dropping BC to 15-10 overall and 9-3 in the PAC, does not affect the Bison in the conference standings, as they had already clinched the regular season championship and top seed in the conference tournament over a week ago. The Presidents, who will be the third seed in the conference playoffs, improve to 12-13 and 8-4 in the league.
The Bison came out smoking in the first half, draining three treys during an 11-2 spurt that gave them an 18-9 advantage. W&J climbed back within a bucket at 20-18, but Bethany ripped off a 15-3 run, highlighted by nine points from junior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central), to surge out to a 35-21 lead, which turned into a 42-29 advantage going into halftime.
BC senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) led the potent first half offense with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while Morando dropped in 10. Wahab Owolabi had nine by the intermission to lead the Presidents.
Morando hit a three to open the second half to swell BC’s lead to a game-high 16 and the Bison advantage was still 11 at 56-45 when junior Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) hit a jumper with 11 minutes to go. That’s when the Presidents made their move, tearing off 10 straight points, including eight from Bison nemesis Josip Lucic-Jozak, in a span of under two minutes. That started a 14-1 run that ended on two Owolobi free throws to put the visitors on top 59-57 and set the stage for a nail-biting finish.
Bethany was in front 66-63 when Matt Drakeley drilled a three to even the game. After a pair of Jackson free throws, W&J’s Albert Varacallo canned a trey to move the Presidents in front 69-68. Jackson and Varacallo matched jumpers on the next two possessions, which kept W&J in front 71-70. The Presidents had the ball in the final minute and with the shot clock winding down, Varacallo forced a jumper. It was short of the rim, but Lucic-Jozak snared the rebound and hit the lay-up with nine seconds to play to make it 73-70 W&J. The Bison had one final three before the buzzer, but it was off and the Presidents snuck away with their second straight win at Hummel Field House.
Playing in his final regular season home game, Jackson rifled in 29 points, his second-highest total of the year. It also moved him into 15th place all-time at the school with 1,108 career points. Also hitting for double figures was Morando with 15 markers and Petkovski with 11.
W&J’s Twin Towers of Lucic-Jozak and Owolabi, who both average more than 20 points per game in their careers against Bethany, had stellar games again. Owolabi scored 21 points and grabbed nine boards, while Lucic-Jozak matched his frontcourt mate’s point total and also yanked down seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, Bethany now gets to wait until Thursday to play because of the bye that comes with the top seed. They will host a PAC Tournament semifinal game that night at 7 p.m. against the lowest remaining seed left from Thursday’s quarterfinal contests. A victory in the semifinals would mean Bethany would host the PAC Tournament championship game on Saturday, March 1.