Bethany men hosting ECAC?regional tourney

BETHANY – Another season. Another postseason appearance for the Bethany College men’s basketball team.

The Bison, the top seed, will play host to No. 4 Juniata College on Saturday night in the first of two ECAC Southwest Regional Tournament semifinals inside the Thomas P. Johnson Recreation Center’s Nutting Gymnasium.

Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m., preceding the 7:30 p.m. contest pitting No. 2 Hood College and No. 3 Waynesburg. The two winners will meet at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

While the Bison are happy about earning their 10th consecutive postseason bid, they are disappointed they didn’t reach their destination of choice – the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Bethany Head Coach Andrew Sachs – 5-for-5 in taking the Bison to the postseason – admitted Thursday his players have had to warm up to the fact they were playing in the ECACs and not the NCAAs.

”It’s been a tough week,” he said. ”But now we have an opportunity to play against a very good basketball team.”

The Bison (21-5 overall, 14-2 PAC) earned the top seed in the PAC Tournament, but dropped a 61-59 decision to No. 9 seed Geneva at home in the quarterfinals, thwarting any chance of an NCAA bid. Saint Vincent, which the Bison split with during the regular season, ended up winning the tournament and securing the conference’s automatic NCAA invitation.

”We’ve had a good year,” Sachs said. ”It’s just a shame the tournament ended the way it did. We had the fourth-most wins in school history. That’s not too shabby.”

The 21 victories marked the third time in the past four seasons the Bison reached the 20-victory plateau.

That’s not too shabby, as well, especially when you consider Bethany was picked to finish fourth in the PAC in the preseason.

”We lost 4,300 points from last year … 4,300,” Sachs said. ”To have some of those guys who didn’t play prominent roles last season step up and do so this year, it’s been an unbelievable season for us.

”I want those guys to go out winners, too.”

Bethany has four players scoring in double digits, led by junior all-PAC first-team performer Delonte Joyce, who’s averaging 16.8 points per game. He’s hit for double digits in 24 of the Bison’s 26 contests this year, including a pair of 30-plus outings.

Seniors Kevin Jackson are Lawrence Weldon are averaging 13.5 and 12.5 ppg, respectively.

Junior Leslie Addy, also an all-PAC first-team honoree, is scoring 11.7 ppg. Sachs said Addy injured his ankle during the Geneva and he’s hopeful he’ll be ready.

Juniata advanced to Saturday’s game with a 92-76 triumph against Alfred on Wednesday night.

Brian Scholly paced the Eagles (16-10) by exploding for 32 points. Kevin Stapleton added 15 points and, in the process, went over the 1,000-point mark for his career.

”They’ve beaten three NCAA tournament teams,” Sachs said. ”They are well coached and they have some good players that have played together for a long time.”

Juniata has seven seniors, including guard Jeremy Hays, who helped lead John Marshall to the 2009 West Virginia Class AAA state tournament.

Thorp can be reached at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com