BISON SEASON ENDS WITH 67-65 LOSS IN ECAC SEMIFINALS
March 6 - WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team was holding to a one-point lead, but Penn State Behrend’s Chris Saltzman scored nine of his game-high 26 points in the final 1:47 to help the Lions rally to nip the Bison 67-65 in the ECAC South Region Semifinals at Catholic (D.C.) University.
The loss ends the Bison’s season with a 19-9 record, tied for the fourth-most single-season wins in school history.
Third-seeded Behrend (20-8) took a 9-2 advantage four minutes into the contest but three straight Bison baskets cut the deficit to one and the game was close the rest of the way. BC, the #2 seed, was within a point on two other occasions in the first half, but couldn’t grab the lead and the Lions used four quick markers from Adam Potter in the final 70 seconds to appear to build a seven-point lead heading into halftime. However, Bethany caught a break when senior Jay Lyonett (Weirton, W.Va./Brooke) was fouled taking a three at the buzzer and he canned all three free throws to make it a 32-28 Lions lead at intermission.
The Bison continued to take advantage of that break by coming out energized for the second half. A three-point play by junior Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) tied the game at 35, but it was answered seconds later by a three from Behrend’s Adam Kaiser. A McFadden jumper and free throw by senior forward Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) tied the game again and another McFadden hoop gave BC their first lead at 42-40 with 15:48 left. That was answered by six consecutive markers by Behrend and the back-and-forth second half, which featured eight ties and 10 lead changes, continued.
A Kaiser jumper at 10:07 put the Lions on top 54-52 and the well went dry for both sides. The next points didn’t come until the 5:49 mark when BC freshman James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) tied the game with a jumper. Bethany grabbed the lead twice over the next couple minutes, the last coming with 3:22 left on a foul shot by freshman Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) that pushed the Green and White on top 58-57.
That would be the last advantage for Bethany, as another dry spell was broken by Saltzman, who converted a traditional three-point play with 1:47 to go to give the Lions a two-point lead. The Bison would get within one point four separate times in the final 90 seconds, but Saltzman swished six straight free throws to keep his team in the lead. Behrend finally missed a foul shot, but it came with less than two seconds left and Bethany was unable to get a final attempt up, as the Lions won by two and moved into Sunday’s title game against #5 Alvernia, who beat #1 Catholic 81-75 in the other semifinal.
For Bethany, Testa finished his fine career in Green and White with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season and 22nd of his career. His final numbers put him first in career games played at Bethany (113), fifth in career rebounds (789) and eighth in all-time points (1,263). Two other Bison reached double digits, including McFadden, who fired in all 12 of his points in the second half.
The final player in double figures was Lyonett, who hit two three-pointers and notched 11. He finished his senior year with 70 triples and 97 for his career, putting him 14th on both the single-season and career lists in that category respectively. The final senior who played his last game for Bethany was Jonas Ankrom (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan), who chipped in with nine points and finished his tenure as a Bison ranked fifth at the school in all-time three-point percentage (41.1).