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Feb. 23 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team, the defending PAC Tournament champions, will begin defense of that crown Tuesday night when they take on invading Thiel in a league quarterfinal match-up at Hummel Field House, schedule to begin at 8 p.m.

The Bison (15-10, 9-3) seem to be peaking at the right time. They have won a season-best three straight games to come in as the #2 seed. They secured their position with a 74-65 victory at Washington & Jefferson Saturday. Freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) torched the Presidents for 34 points, the second time this year he fired in 34 against W&J. Senior Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) chipped in with four three-pointers and 12 points.

Beckwith’s monster game Saturday continued his tear against PAC foes this year. In the 11 games he’s played against conference teams competing in the tournament, he’s scored 19.2 markers per game, tops among all players. The 6-0 guard is also ranked in the top 10 in nearly every other major statistical category in league tilts, including second in steals (2.4), seventh in rebounding (6.0), field goal percentage (50.7), free throw percentage (79.5) and eighth in assists (2.2).

In the seven-year history of the PAC Tournament, the Bison have won four crowns, while the rest of the league has claimed just three (Grove City – 2, Westminster – 1). Bethany’s record in the PAC Tournament is 11-3, including a 10-1 mark at Hummel Field House. BC’s most frequent foe in the league playoffs is Tuesday’s opponent Thiel. The Bison are 3-1 against the Tomcats in tourney history, including three straight victories by an average of 26 points. The only Thiel win over Bethany in PACs came in 2003 when the Tomcats nipped BC 81-77 in a semifinal game in Greenville.

The overall series between the teams has been controlled by Bethany lately. The Bison lead the all-time series 104-41 and have claimed 11 consecutive decisions over the Tomcats, including a pair of triumphs this year. In the first meeting Jan. 3, BC finally came away with a 77-70 win at home in a game that featured 10 ties and 23 lead changes. Bethany took the Feb. 4 rematch on the road as well by a 77-63 count. Junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) averaged 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two wins, while Beckwith averaged 15.5 points.

Although the Tomcats (2-22, 1-11) have had a disappointing season, they are the only program to win a game in the PAC Tournament as the #7 seed. Back in 2006, Thiel, who was 4-21 going into the game, shocked #2 W&J 73-72 to move into the semifinals, where they would meet the Bison. That Bethany team, guided by current assistant coach Matt Drahos, defeated the Tomcats 94-70 on their way to the PAC championship.

This year’s Thiel squad has lost seven in a row since a 74-54 victory at Waynesburg Jan. 24. In their regular season finale Saturday against Grove City, the Tomcats hit just 29 percent (18-63) from the floor in a 71-50 loss. The only TC player in double digits was Nick Sefscik with 19 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the arc. Sefscik leads Thiel in scoring with 11.3 points per game and is third in the PAC in three-point percentage at 45.8 (44-96). Also scoring in double figures is guard Cory Chafee with 10.7 per game.

If Bethany is victorious over Thiel, they would host a semifinal game Thursday against #3 Westminster (9-16, 7-5) if they defeat #6 Waynesburg (6-18, 2-10). If the Titans are upset by the Yellow Jackets, BC would host the winner of the #4 W&J (16-9, 7-5)/ #5 Grove City (12-11, 6-6) quarterfinal. Top-seeded Thomas More (17-8, 10-2) has a bye into the semifinals and will host the lowest seed remaining on Thursday. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday evening.