Feb. 26 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany women’s basketball team will travel to Kentucky this weekend to play in the PAC Tournament Final Four, with the Bison in search of their first conference championship since 2004.
It will not be an easy mountain for third-seeded Bethany (15-11) to climb. In a 6 p.m. semifinal Friday night, BC takes on 21st-ranked Washington & Jefferson (22-3). If they can upset the Presidents for a second time this season, they will advance to Saturday’s 2 p.m. title game against the winner of the top-seed and host Thomas More/#5 Thiel semifinal, which will start at 8 p.m. Friday night.
Bethany reached the semifinals for the second time in the last three years by rallying to defeat Waynesburg 68-63 in overtime Tuesday. The Bison trailed 39-27 at halftime, but senior center Renee Brandenburg (Avella, Pa.) scored 12 in the second half to help BC tie the game at 61 and send it to overtime. Brandenburg fired in the first four points of the extra session and Bethany didn’t allow Waynesburg to score until the closing seconds, after the outcome had been determined.
Brandenburg led all scorers in the contest with 21 points and added eight rebounds. Senior Kaitlyn McCormick (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists and sophomore Stacy Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami) and freshman Anne Wilson each tallied 10.
Bethany continues to rely on a balanced offense, with nine players scoring at least four points per game. McCormick is the only player in double digits with 10.5 per game, followed closely by Brandenburg (9.8), sophomore Kelly Goode (8.9) and Stacy Goode and Wilson (8.0 each). Eight different players have led the Green and White in scoring in a game this season, with McCormick totaling a team-best seven games as the high-point person.
Tuesday’s close victory has become the norm for the Bison down the stretch this season. When BC won just four games through the first 13 this year, they were 1-6 in games decided by single digits. But as Bethany won 11 of their final 13 games coming into Friday’s semifinal, they are 7-0 in match-ups determined by eight points or less.
One of those victories came Jan. 21, when Bethany upset then-20th ranked W&J 66-61. Kelly (15 pts., 3-4 from the arc) and Stacy (10 pts., 3-3 from the arc) Goode combined for 25 points and 6-for-7 shooting from deep in the surprising win. The Presidents earned their revenge less than a week ago when they out-gunned BC 93-77. W&J hit 13 of their first 16 attempts in the contest and shot 52 percent from the floor to win the regular season finale for both teams last Saturday. Seniors Veronica Kust (17) and Lindsay Hyre (13) totaled 30 points and swished 7-of-9 triples between them.
W&J advanced to the semifinals after defeating Westminster 70-57 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Although the Presidents were out-rebounded 31-24, they forced 22 Titan turnovers, while committing just nine miscues of their own. Leading the way in scoring and rebounding was Maggie Gibson with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Emily Hays scored 16.
The inside tandem of Hays (16.0 pts., 6.3 rebs.) and Gibson (10.3 pts., 11.0 rebs.) leads the Presidents’ attack, but it may be their outside shooting that determines whether they get past the Bison. W&J, who leads the PAC in three-point percentage (36.0), set season-highs with 10 treys and 62.5 percent shooting (10-16) from the arc in the win over BC last Saturday. Bethany is holding teams to just 29.1 percent shooting from deep this year, second-lowest in the league, and in the upset win Jan. 21, the Bison limited W&J to only 20 percent (2-10) accuracy from three-point range.
This is the fourth meeting in PAC Tournament history between Bethany and W&J, all coming in championship games. The Bison captured all three decisions in 2000 (62-52), 2001 (57-56) and 2004 (83-74). BC’s all-time record in the Tournament is 10-5 and this is just the second time Bethany has played at a neutral site in the playoffs. The only other occasion was in 2001 when the Bison beat Grove City 60-39 at W&J in the semifinals before nipping the Presidents in the title game.
Bethany has played Thomas More only one time in the postseason, dropping a 62-49 decision at TMC in the 2006 semifinals. The Bison are 1-1 all-time against Thiel at PACs, owning an 85-62 victory over the Tomcats in the ’02 semifinals and a 73-63 setback in the first round of the 2005 tournament.
In the other semifinal, Thomas More (24-2), who is hosting the PAC Final Four for the third consecutive year, has won 13 straight games. The 11th-ranked Saints cruised into the semifinals with a 60-44 triumph over Chatham behind 14 points and seven assists from Gabby Johnson. Thomas More leads the conference in points scored (73.4), fewest points allowed (50.9) and rebounding margin (+11.4).
Pacing the Saints inside is Nicole Dickman with 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while the perimeter game is spearheaded by Jayme Thiem (13.9 points, 4.1 assists) and Alex Gee (8.3 pts.), who is the PAC leader in threes (61) and three-point percentage (42.4). Thomas More is trying to win their third PAC championship in a row after beating Westminster in the title game each of the last two seasons.
Trying to pull their second upset of the week is Thiel (11-14), the lone victorious road team in the quarterfinals. The Tomcats, who limped into the postseason after dropping seven of the final eight regular season contests, outscored host Grove City 41-26 in the second half to claim a 65-51 victory over the Wolverines Tuesday. The PAC’s leading scorer, Amber Jenae Bodrick (18.1 ppg.), was the difference with 29 points and 13 rebounds in the Thiel victory.
Thomas More won the regular season meetings between these teams by scores of 69-46 in Greenville and 64-31 at TMC. In the process, the Saints held Bodrick in check, as she averaged just 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in the two games. Thiel’s Towanda Michelle Warren, who is second on the team in scoring (9.4), tallied nine in both games against the Saints this year.