Andrew Woodley, Sports Information Director
BETHANY, W.Va. (Feb. 28) - Led by a season-high 23 points from senior guard Andrew Williams (Oil City, Pa./Oil City), the Bethany College men's basketball team earned a 71-66 win over Penn State Altoona in the opening round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Tournament Wednesday night inside Hummel Field House.
The Bison improve to 17-12 overall and advance to the ECAC Quarterfinals in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where they will meet Medaille at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 2 at Wilkes University. Wilkes University will serve as the host of the rest of the tournament. Meanwhile, Penn State Altoona concludes its season at 19-8 overall.
Williams was the most efficient player on the floor, shooting 80 percent (8-of-10) with five rebounds, two assists and one steal in the win. Senior guard Calique Jones (Pittsburgh, Pa./Obama Academy) finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while senior center Liam Davis (Orlando, Fla./Orlando Christian Prep) added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams struggled from the floor early on, but finished the first half strong. The Lions established the first multi-possession lead of the period at 27-23 with 3:38 left in the first half and eventually took their biggest lead of the night at 34-28 with one minute to play until halftime. The Bison managed to pull back within six, 34-28, entering the locker rooms thanks to a trey by senior guard Jerron Athey (Richmond, Va./Banner Christian) with 33 seconds on the clock. No player for Bethany scored in double-figures in the first half and Jones, a recent All-PAC First-Team selection, was limited to five points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Bison rallied past Altoona with a 10-3 run over the first four minutes of the second half, capped off by a Williams three-point shot, to take a 38-37 lead with 15:57 remaining in the game. The momentum swung back-and-forth, before Bethany established a 45-41 lead with the help of a three pointer by freshman Trey Shifflett (York, Pa./William Penn) and a fast-break jumper by Jones with 10:23 on the clock.
Penn State Altoona climbed back within one point, 53-52, near the five-minute mark, but the Bison re-established a five-point lead with consecutive baskets in the ensuing minute. The Lions would not go away quietly and drew back within one point, 57-56, following a fast-break dunk with 3:12 left in the game. Athey once again came up big with his second three pointer of the game and then found senior Nick Metz (Pittsburgh, Pa./OLSH) sitting under the hoop for an easy layup to push Bethany's lead back to six, 62-56, with 2:31 remaining in regulation.
The Lions got as close as three, 64-61, with 1:32 left in on the clock, but the Bison converted five of seven free-throw attempts in the final minute to secure the victory and clinch a spot in the ECAC Quarterfinals for the second-consecutive season.
The Bison out-scored Penn State Altoona 43-32 in the second half and shot over 45 percent from the field in the process.
The win gives Head Coach Nick Hager at least 17 wins in each of his first three seasons on the Bethany sideline.
Jones appeared in his 112th game in a Bison uniform. He will tie the Bethany all-time games played record of 113 held by former Bison Joe Testa (2006-10) on Friday afternoon.
Altoona's Ishimeal Nance, the recently crowned Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) Player of the Year, finished with 20 points in the loss.
Bethany will travel to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on Friday, March 2 to take on Medaille at 2 p.m. in the ECAC Quarterfinals. Medaille used a last-second shot to beat Westminster, 74-72, in its opening round game. Wilkes University will serve as the host-site for the rest of the tournament games.