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March 1 - ST. MARY CITY, Md. – The 20th-ranked Bethany College men’s basketball team sliced a 20-point deficit down to five late in the second half, but the comeback fell short, as St. Mary’s held on for a 69-57 victory over the Bison in their NCAA Tournament 1st round match-up Thursday night.

Bethany fell into a deep hole to start last year’s NCAA Tournament game against Manchester and Thursday’s game had a similar beginning. The Seahawks (20-7) scored the first seven points of the game, including an alley-oop dunk to Chris Hutchinson to finish the run. The Bison finally got on the board on a jumper by junior Brady Pacific (Avonmore, Pa./Kiski) nearly three minutes into the game and a short time later, back-to-back baskets by senior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) and junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) brought BC within three at 15-12 with 11:15 to go in the half.

Following a media timeout, St. Mary’s put together a solid run to build a big lead. Devin Spencer canned consecutive treys to start a 10-2 spurt that took the home team’s margin to 25-14 and the Seahawks would limit the Green and White to just two points over the final 6:20 of the stanza to take a 32-20 lead at the intermission.

Fueling St. Mary’s in the first half was a 23-15 rebounding advantage, including eight offensive caroms that led to 12 second-chance points. Spencer also hit four three-pointers and tallied 14 by the break, while Bethany’s 20 points were the result of five different players scoring four each.

A three-point play by the Seahawks to start the second half put Bethany down even further. A few minutes later, two straight threes by Spencer and a dunk by Christian MacAuley extended the St. Mary’s spread to a game-high 20 at 45-25 with 15:31 to play. Bethany made its first big run shortly after that, using an 11-3 spurt to trim the deficit to 51-40. St. Mary’s looked like they answered with six points in a row and their lead stood at 57-40 with under eight minutes to play.

With their season on the line, Bethany made one final push. Mabery scored seven in a row and 10 overall during a 14-2 run that was capped by an Alexander lay-in that made it a 59-54 score with 4:27 to play. Two SMC free throws were answered by a jumper from freshman Delonte` Joyce (Annapolis, Md.) and it was 61-56 with 3:40 on the clock. But that was as close as the rally would get. St. Mary’s, who went to the foul line 27 times on the night compared to just seven for BC, would go 6-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final 3:31 and the Bison did not another field goal after the Joyce basket, as the Seahawks advance to Saturday’s second round game at Virginia Wesleyan.

The Bison had three players reach double digits in the loss, highlighted by Mabery, who totaled 21 points, five assists and five steals. Sophomore Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) fired in 11 and Alexender’s outstanding two-year run at Bethany came to an end with his ninth double-double of the season after he collected 10 points and 14 rebounds. He also blocked two shots and finished with 122 rejections to rank second all-time at BC.

The Seahawks were driven by Spencer, who was 7-for-11 from the arc for 28 points, and Jeff Haus, who came off the bench to record 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Bethany’s season ended with a 25-4 overall record, which set a new single-season record for wins, and the program’s 14th PAC championship, which is a conference record. The Bison also made its eight overall NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth consecutive postseason trip.