Feb. 19 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College men’s and women’s basketball teams will start their final week of the regular season Wednesday with a road trip to Westminster. The women’s contest is scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m. and the men will take the floor in the 8 p.m. nightcap.
The women’s game shapes up as a battle between two of the hotter teams in the league. The Bison (14-9, 9-3) won their fourth in a row and moved into a tie for second place in the PAC with Saturday’s 86-77 triumph over Chatham. Five players recorded double figures for BC, led by junior forward Susannah Cartland (Harvard, Ill.) with 16 and junior guard Kaitlyn McCormick (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) with 13.
The win did a lot more than just draw Bethany even with Washington & Jefferson for second in the league. It clinched a winning season for the Green and White, their first since 2003-04, and also wrapped up no worse than the third seed in next week’s PAC Tournament. The four-game winning streak the Bison are currently riding is their longest since they won four straight in 2005.
If Bethany can claim a win Wednesday, it would set up a showdown with W&J Saturday for the second seed. Regardless of whether BC finishes second or third in the regular season standings, they are guaranteed a home game in the PAC Quarterfinals next Tuesday. If all the top seeds win their first round game, the Bison are locked in to face W&J in the semifinals at Thomas More, who is 23-0 and have clinched the top seed and would host the PAC semifinals and championship if they win Tuesday.
The fourth seed in the PAC Tournament is also locked in, as Westminster (14-9, 7-6) secured that spot and the quarterfinal home game that comes with it by beating Thiel 69-46 on Saturday. Last week’s PAC Player of the Week Emilee Ackerman tallied 25 of her game-high 31 points in the second half and pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds. Also in double digits was Terese Marszalek with 10 to help the Titans win their third in a row following a six-game losing streak.
Ackerman is having a remarkable season for Westminster. She leads the conference and is ranked third in Division III with 22.5 points per game. The 5-8 guard/forward has notched 12 double-doubles on the season and is also ranked fourth in the PAC in rebounding (9.2), seventh in field goal percentage (50.5) and third in free throw percentage (86.6). The only other Titan in double figures is Gina Brunetti, who is scoring 10.0 points per game and shooting 82 percent from the foul line, which has helped Westminster convert a PAC-leading 76.7 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe.
One of Ackerman’s double-doubles came in the first meeting with Bethany this season, as she set a career-high with 33 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. However, it wasn’t enough to slow down a Bison team that had six of the seven players who saw time score in double figures in an 83-66 BC victory. McCormick nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight steals, while Cartland and freshman guard Stacy Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami) each tallied 14.
The men’s game will be the first time Bethany has taken the floor since last Wednesday when they clinched the PAC regular season title with a 78-61 victory over Grove City. Junior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) hit five threes and scored 17, while sophomore forwards Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) (14 pts., 13 rebs.) and Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale) (13 pts., 10 rebs.) each posted double-doubles.
Boosted by the efforts of their second-year big men, the Bison registered a 40-30 advantage on the glass in the Grove City. That included 16 offensive caroms, which matched BC’s highest total of the season. On the year, Bethany is ranked sixth in the league in rebounding margin (-0.6) but last Wednesday’s victory improved their record to 10-1 when they hold a rebounding advantage.
The game against Grove City was the third double-double of the season for both Testa and Besancon and the second time this year they both achieved it in the same game. The first time was Jan. 19 when Bethany shot 59 percent (41-70) in tallying a 102-61 rout over Westminster. Senior point guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) scored a team-high 16, while Testa notched 14 points and 12 rebounds and Besancon finished with 14 markers and 10 boards. The Titans, who shot a season-low 28 percent in the game, were led by Craig Hannon with 20 and Ryne Murrary with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Westminster (6-17, 4-7) is still in the mix for the fourth seed and a home game in the PAC Quarterfinals if they can pull out a win over the Bison. The Titans are currently tied with Thiel and are a half-game behind Thomas More, who is done with conference games in the regular season, for that fourth spot. Westminster will complete their regular season PAC games with the Bethany contest before going to Geneva Saturday. Thiel’s final conference match-up comes Saturday with a trip to Grove City.
The Titans are also looking for their second win in a row following a 65-58 victory over Thiel on Saturday. The Tomcats led by two at halftime, but Westminster shot 58 percent in the second half for the win. Murray scored 15 of his 25 after halftime and Hannon hit for 21 to lead all scorers.
Murray’s effort, which included 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists, earned him PAC Player of the Week status. The 6-4 forward is averaging a double-double on the year with 17.8 points (sixth in the PAC) and 10.2 rebounds (first). Hannon is the team’s leading scorer with 18.3 points per game (third in PAC) and is also ranked fourth in the conference in threes with 66. Back on Feb. 9, Hannon became Westminster’s all-time leading scorer and now has 1,654 career points.