Dec. 7 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team overcame an early 15-point deficit and held on late to notch their sixth consecutive victory, a 63-61 decision over Grove City College on Saturday evening.
The Wolverines came out firing on all cylinders, hitting 10 of their first 12 three-point shots to run out to a 29-14 advantage with 6:47 to play in the first half. It was then that the Bison would respond, answering with a 13-3 run to end the first stanza.
Kevin Jackson (Baltimore, Md./Walbrook) got the run going with a three-pointer of his own to cut the Grove City advantage to 12 (29-17). Bethany also got two three-point baskets by Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) and buckets by Lawrence Weldon (Baltimore, Md./Poly) and Ramel Young (Walterboro, S.C./Estill) to cut the Wolverine advantage to just six points (33-27) going into the halftime break.
Grove City made just one field goal inside the three-point arc in the first half of play, shooting 10-of-15 from beyond the three-point line. However, despite watching the Wolverines shoot 52 percent in the first frame, the Bison were confident they could get back in the contest.
In the second half, after the Wolverines had extended the lead to 10 points (37-27) with 16:48 to go in the game, Bethany quickly turned the tables. Bethany forced five turnovers and outscored the Wolverines 16-0 over the next five minutes.
After a jumper was made by Jackson, the Bison recorded back-to-back steals which lead to four straight fast-break points by Tyrone Smothers (Baltimore, Md./Mergenthaler) to cut the advantage to four points (37-33) with 14:11 to play. After a missed three-pointer by Grove City, Bethany came right back down the floor and made one of their own thanks to Delonte’ Joyce (Annapolis, Md./Annapolis), which cut the lead to one point (37-36).
Bethany would take its first lead since 3-0 on a tip-in by Joyce and would extend the lead to four points (41-37) on Jackson’s third three-point shot of the game with 12:18 to play.
With the Bison up five points (43-38), the two teams would trade four consecutive three-point baskets. Grove City’s Josh Patterson hit the first to cut the Bison advantage to two (43-41). Smothers would then respond on the next play before Brian Giesler hit his sixth long ball of the day. Giesler’s three was then immediately followed by Jackson’s fourth triple of the afternoon and Bethany took the five-point advantage (49-44) with 9:30 to play.
Bethany would run its lead to eight points (58-50) with 5:29 to play but Grove City would refuse to go away, notching a 9-2 run to cut the Bison advantage to one point (60-59) with just under a minute remaining in the contest.
After Jackson buried two pressure free throws to give Bethany the 62-59 lead with 44 seconds to go, Grove City attempted to tie the game on a three-point shot. Giesler was fouled on his attempt but would convert just two of the three free throws and Bethany would cling to a one-point advantage (62-61).
After Weldon split a pair of free throws to give Bethany a two-point advantage (63-61), the Bison needed a big defensive effort. With one second to play, Grove City attempted a lob pass to look for a tip-in to send the game to overtime. However, Joyce got his hands on the pass and stole it away to preserve the two-point victory for Bethany (63-61).
Despite allowing the Wolverines to shoot 47 percent from the field and 55 percent from three-point range, the Bison were able to come away with the victory, thanks to solid pressure defense down the stretch. Bethany came away with 11 steals in the contest, while forcing Grove City into 19 turnovers. The Green and White also controlled the glass, outrebounding the Wolverines 38-28.
Individually, Jackson led the way with 18 points. Smothers and Joyce also reached double figures, finishing with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Weldon stuffed the stat sheet in the contest, garnering career highs in steals (five) and assists (nine) while posting seven points and five rebounds.
The Bison will be back in action on Saturday, Dec. 14, when they travel to Beaver Falls for a contest with Geneva College. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip.