Bison rally past Westminster in PAC Semifinals, 76-72

Bison rally past Westminster in PAC Semifinals, 76-72

Andrew Woodley, Sports Information Director

BETHANY, W.Va. (Feb. 22) - The Bison erased a six-point deficit in the final four minutes to rally past Westminster for a 76-72 win in the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) Tournament Semifinals Thursday night at the Hummel Field House.

The No. 2 seed Bethany College men's basketball team improves to 16-11 overall and will travel to take on top-seed Thomas More for the PAC Title and an automatic bid into the NCAA Divison III Tournament on Saturday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. The victory was also the 50th for third-year Head Coach Nick Hager. Meanwhile, the Titans fall to 19-8 overall this season.

Four Bison scored in double-figures, led by senior guard Calique Jones' (Pittsburgh, Pa./Obama Academy) team-high 22 points. Jones finished the night 8-of-12 from the field, including a 3-for-5 effort from beyond the arc. He also passed former Bison Nick Wilcox (2009-13) for sixth all-time in school history with 1,460 career points.

Senior guard Andrew Williams (Oil City, Pa./Oil City) finished with 15 points, senior center Liam Davis (Orlando, Fla./Orlando Christian Prep) added 12 points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Trey Shifflett (York, Pa./William Penn) chipped in 10 points. Sophomore forward Chaice Truex (Wheeling, W.Va./St. John's Central (Ohio)) was the top-rebounder, posting 12 boards to go with five points.

Bethany trailed 69-63 with 3:40 left in the game following a layup by Westminster's Deontay Scott. Bethany answered with a baseline jam by Davis, before the Titans split a pair at the free-throw line on the other end. The Bison grabbed an offensive rebound on the ensuing possession, allowing Jones to knock down a trey at the 2:13-mark to bring Bethany within two points, 70-68.

Westminster's Jarrett Vrabel missed a three-point attempt and turned the ball over on the Titans next two possessions, giving the Bison a chance to tie the game as the clock neared the final minute. Williams drove the lane and got a friendly roll on the rim to tie the game up with 1:03 left in the game. Westminster came up empty again on its end, setting the stage for the Bison to take their first-lead since the 17:04-mark of the second half. Jones, playing with four fouls, sliced through the lane, drew a foul, and made both attempts at the line to give Bethany a 72-70 lead with 29 seconds left in the contest.

With the shot clock turned off, the Titans missed a go-ahead three-point attempt with 15 seconds on the clock and fouled Shifflett. Shifflett calmly sunk both free throws to increase the lead to 74-70 with 13 seconds remaining in the game. Westminster converted a quick jumpshot to bring the game back within one possession, but Williams put the game on ice with two free throws at the other end to secure Bethany's first PAC Tournament Championship Game appearance since 2012.  

Bethany finished the game shooting 51 percent (28 of 55) from the field, compared to the 39 percent (24 of 62) posted by Westminster. The difference in the game came at the charity stripe, where the Bison were 13-of-18 (72 percent) and the Titans were 15-of-26 (58 percent).

Westminster narrowly won the rebounding battle, 38-to-37, but came away with a decided advantage with 16 offensive rebounds. Despite the advantage, the Titans only out-scored the Bison nine to seven in second-chance points.

The Green & White came out of the gate strong and established a 16-9 lead, capped off by a fast-break layup by sophomore Kindhal Taylor (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills), that forced Westminster to take a timeout six minutes into the game. The Bison continued to add to their lead and held a 23-11 advantage with 11:18 to play in the first half following a basket by senior guard Jerron Athey (Richmond, Va./Banner Christian). 

Bethany eventually established its largest-lead of the night at 33-18 with 5:53 left until halftime, prompting another Titan timeout. The momentum of the first half turned after the timeout. Westminster knocked down four three-point shots and closed the half with a 16-5 run to head into the locker rooms only trailing by four, 38-34, at halftime.

Westminster picked up where it left off in the second half. The Titans out-scored Bethany 17-to-9 over the first five minutes of the second stanza to take a 51-47 lead. Bethany managed to tie the game up at 52-52 as the clocked passed the 14-minute mark, but a crucial fourth foul on Calique Jones with 13:39 left in the game forced the PAC's leading scorer to the bench.

The Titans took advantage of Jones' absence and built up their biggest lead of the evening at 58-52 with 10:50 left in regulation. The Bison answered back with a pair of baskets from their backcourt, including a three-point shot by Trey Shifflett, to draw back within one, 58-57, with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Westminster appeared to be in good shape following a three pointer that gave it a 65-59 lead with just over seven minutes left on the clock. The Titans maintained a multi-possession lead up until the Jones three-point shot which made the score 70-68 with 2:13 remaining in the contest.

The game saw six lead changes and four tie scores.

Westminster also had four players score in double-figures, led by Austin Armwood who finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Cameron Kane-Johnson (16.6 ppg.), the PAC's second-leading scorer behind Calique Jones, was held to two points and was 0-for-7 from the field.

The Bison will be making their first appearance in the PAC Championship game since 2012, when they defeated Thomas More 58-53 at Hummel Field House. Bethany has won a PAC-record 14 league championships.