Feb. 24 – BETHANY, W. Va. – Behind a group of veteran leadership, the Bethany men’s basketball team (21-4, 14-2 PAC) had a regular season to remember, en route to earning the program’s third 20+-win season in the past four years, and the Presidents’ Athletic Conference regular season title.
The Bison started off the 2013-14 campaign with a nine-game winning streak. They opened the season with a 79-69 win over Frostburg State and then returned home for a 79-61 victory over Ohio Athletic Conference regular season champion Mount Union. In the victory over the Purple Raiders, all five starters registered double figures, a feat which would become a trend for the Bison over the course of the season.
Over the next seven games, Bethany racked up seven more victories, which included PAC wins over Waynesburg (68-65), Grove City (63-61) and Geneva (91-62). They then concluded their nine-game streak by dropping St. John Fisher, 79-52. The win over the Cardinals proved to be SJF’s largest margin of defeat this season (27 points).
Following the 9-0 start, the Bison went 4-4 over their next eight games, which included two overtime losses at the hands of Case Western Reserve (76-71) and Thomas More (82-74). They also saw their only two conference defeats of the season come during that stretch, losses which they would soon avenge.
Sitting at 13-4 and 6-2 in conference play, the Bison saw themselves ranked second in the conference standings with eight games to go. Bethany would respond well, taking all eight games that remained.
The Green & White captured four of their remaining conference victories by double figures, which included a decisive win at Saint Vincent (85-65). In the contest against the Bearcats, Delonte’ Joyce (Annapolis, Md./Annapolis) and Lawrence Weldon (Baltimore, Md./Poly) combined for 54 of the team's 85 points. Joyce notched a career-high 31, while Weldon posted his career best with 23.
Bethany would ride the momentum of the big road win to home victories over Thomas More (80-77) and W&J (72-69) to finish the year as the regular season PAC Champion. The team also finished the year by earning hosting rights throughout the PAC playoffs.
Over the course of the regular season, the Bison have relied on balance, as all five starters are averaging at least eight points per game. Heading into the PAC Championship tournament, the Bison rank second in the conference in points per game (76.9) and come in as the league’s top defense, allowing just 65.8 points per contest.
As a team, the Bison have used their stifling defense to keep opponents on their heels. The Green & White rank third in all of Division III in steals per contest, averaging 12.3 per game, almost four more than any other team in the conference. Individually, Joyce is at the center of those numbers, ranking third in the country (3.28).
On the offensive side, Joyce has also been a key focal point, ranking fourth in the conference in points per game (17.1). Joyce has eclipsed the 20-point mark eight times on the year, and is the only player in the PAC to reach the 30-point plateau more than once.
Kevin Jackson (Baltimore, Md./Walbrook) has also been a solid presence for the Bison this season, ranking ninth in the PAC in points per game (13.5). He has also been an efficient scorer, shooting just under 54 percent from the field on the year.
All five starters have contributed in big ways for the Bison this season. Including Joyce and Jackson, Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) is averaging 11.8 points per game, and ranks in the top ten in the conference in offensive rebounds, steals and blocked shots. Weldon is scoring 12.4 points per game and is among the league leader in assists, averaging 3.8 per contest. Tyrone Smothers (Baltimore, Md./Mergenthaler) is scoring at an 8.6 point per game clip and leads the team in free throw percentage (.760).
Bethany will open the PAC playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when they will host Geneva in a quarter final contest. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip. With a victory, the Bison would host a PAC Semifinal match-up Thursday night at Hummel Field House against lowest remaining seed.