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BISON MEET SAINT VINCENT THURSDAY FOR SPOT IN PAC TITLE GAME
Feb. 23 - BETHANY, W.Va. –After an impressive victory in the opening round of the PAC Tournament Tuesday, the third-seeded Bethany College men’s basketball team travels to #2 Saint Vincent for a conference semifinal match-up Thursday at 7 p.m.
In Tuesday’s quarterfinal tilt with Westminster, the Bison (19-7) trailed by 10 midway through the opening half, but erupted for a 39-5 blitz to close the period with a 47-23 halftime lead. Bethany kept the foot on the gas in the second half, shooting 65 percent to coast to a 90-58 triumph. Sophomore point guard Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) scored all of his season-high 19 points in the big first half, while junior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) totaled 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots to set a new Bethany single-season record with 55.
Bethany’s long-range shooters have come alive down the stretch of the season. The Bison have made double-digit threes in back-to-back games for the first time this year after making 14 in last Saturday’s game at Washington & Jefferson and 10 in the Westminster win. It hasn’t just been a quantity of treys either, as BC is making 41 percent (41-100) of their shots from long distance over the last five games, up slightly from the conference-best 38.5 percent they are shooting from deep for the year.
The first game of this stretch was a Feb. 9 game at Saint Vincent. Bethany was 5-for-8 from the arc in the opening half to build a 35-18 margin at the break. The Bearcats would charge back into the game, getting within three at 60-57 with two minutes to play before the Bison sealed the 65-57 win with five foul shots down the stretch. Sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) hit a trio of triples and finished with a game-high 19 points and Mabery also cashed in three treys to compile 13 points, six steals and three assists.
That win gave the Bison a split of the season series with Saint Vincent after the Bearcats captured the first meeting by a slim 71-70 decision on Jan. 8 in Hummel Field House. That game also featured a big comeback, as SVC rallied from a 10-point deficit with eight minutes left to escape with the win on a Dennis Bassich free throw with two seconds left. Sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) totaled a career-high 25 points, as well as eight rebounds and four steals, but Saint Vincent was paced by Dillon Stith with 21 points off the bench and Bassich with 16.
Bethany is an experienced group with deep runs in the PAC Tournament. In the nine-year history of the conference playoffs, the Green and White have a 15-5 record, but are only 1-4 in road games. Their lone win came in the 2003 quarterfinals with an 82-74 triumph at Waynesburg. Their last two road defeats in the tournament have come at Thomas More in the ’09 championship game and last season in the semifinals.
By comparison, this is Saint Vincent’s first time in the PAC Tournament, as they just completed their conversion from NAIA to NCAA Division III prior to this year. The Bearcats’ first playoff game was a complete success, as they turned in a 72-54 victory over Grove City in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. After leading by just four at intermission, SVC turned it up in the second half to outscore the Wolverines 43-29. Junior Tauvon Pettiford led four scorers in double figures with 21, while Bassich hit for 16 and B.J. McGill had 15.
The Bearcats attack has become more balanced through the second half of the year. McGill earned a pair of conference Player of the Week awards for his play through the first half of the season and is still averaging 14.6 points per game. However, Bassich is now the team’s leading scorer with 16.0 a game and he has erupted for some monster outings lately, including 28 in wins at Geneva and Waynesburg and 32 in a big comeback victory at Thomas More. In addition to putting up the game-high for points against Grove City, Pettiford is pumping in 11.2 points per game.