BISON SQUARE OFF WITH WESTMINSTER IN PAC SEMIFINAL THURSDAY
Feb. 25 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Fresh off their largest comeback win in more than seven seasons, the Bethany men’s basketball team will host Westminster Thursday in a PAC Tournament semifinal match-up at Hummel Field House. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The second-seeded Bison (16-10) extended their season-long winning streak to four games Tuesday by recovering from a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat #7 Thiel 74-69. It was Bethany’s largest comeback since they rebounded from 13 points down at half to win at Westminster in Jan., 2002. The Tomcats took a 40-28 lead at the break, but BC chipped away in the second half behind sophomore Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio). The 6-0 guard scored 21 of his career-high 25 points after halftime to lead Bethany to the win, which was their 12th straight over Thiel.
Other big performers for the Bison in their come-from-behind win was freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) with 16 points and nine rebounds and junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) with 11 markers and 11 boards. The BC duo have been posting some very impressive numbers of late, with Beckwith averaging 22.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals over the last 10 games. Testa, who has seven double-doubles this year, has three in the last six games and is averaging 12.8 points and 9.7 boards over that stretch.
Tuesday’s win improved Bethany’s record all-time in the PAC Tournament to 12-3, including an 11-1 mark at Hummel Field House. The only team the Bison have not beaten in the conference playoffs is their foe on Thursday. Westminster won the only match-up between the schools, which came in the 2004 Tournament Championship game. The Titans knocked off BC 97-88 to win their first PAC crown in just their second year in the league. Since that final, Bethany has won three of the last four tournament championships and owns a PAC-high 12 titles.
The semifinal game will be the rubber match between the teams after they each team defended their home court during the regular season. Westminster rallied from a 17-point deficit with 10 minutes to play to nip Bethany 80-78 in their first meeting Jan. 17. Titan forward Ryne Murray finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, just a little better than Bethany senior Petre Petkovski’s (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) 27 points and 10 rebounds.
In the rematch Feb. 18, the Bison saw an eight-point lead trimmed to one with 2:32 to play, but held Westminster scoreless the rest of the way in an 82-77 triumph. Beckwith went off for 27 points and Testa amassed 15 points and 10 rebounds, which helped lessen the blow of double-doubles from Westminster’s Murray (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Rob Briggs (12 points, 14 rebounds).
Murray has been a thorn in Bethany’s side in his two years as a Titan. He has double-doubles in all four career meetings with the Bison and is averaging 21.8 points, 13 rebounds and 3.5 assists in those games. The 6-4 forward doesn’t just save his best for BC, as he led Westminster to a 94-78 quarterfinal victory over Waynesburg Tuesday with 26 points and 13 boards. Other big players for the Titans was Steve Bielich, who went 4-for-4 from the arc and tallied 18 points in just 13 minutes of action, and Max Spinner, who also canned four treys and totaled 14.
While the Titans have not returned to their frenetic style of play from a couple years ago which saw them shoot over 40 treys per game, they have been shooting it pretty well from the arc recently. They lead the league in triples per game with 9.0 and have hit 10 or trifectas in five of the last six contests. Murray, who is second in the PAC scoring (19.8) and first in rebounding (10.3), also leads the team with 71 threes, while Bobby Glass has canned 53 long-range shots.
The winner of the Bethany-Westminster semifinal will meet the other semifinal victor Saturday in the championship game. Top-seed Thomas More will host #4 Washington & Jefferson Thursday at 7 p.m. The teams split the regular season meetings as well, with each winning on their own home floor. The highest seed remaining after the semifinals will host the title clash Saturday.