By NICK BEDWAY
For the News-Register
BETHANY - Christmas clearly didn't come early this year for the Bethany College women's basketball team, although Coach Rebecca Upton probably believes the Bison gift-wrapped a victory for visiting Hiram on Saturday afternoon at Hummel Field House.
Presented several opportunities to either tie the score or take the lead in the closing minutes of its final outing before the holiday break, Bethany couldn't convert and wound up on the losing end of a 64-61 decision.
The setback dropped the Bison record to 4-7, while the Terriers regained the .500 mark at 5-5 in what also was their last December appearance.
''It was frustrating," Upton said. ''We felt the game was there for the taking and we had some big turnovers and some big misses on our last couple of possessions."
Upton noted that a lack of consistency has been her team's biggest opponent throughout the early part of the season. That was sure the case again Saturday.
''We play our game in spurts," Upton said. ''When we are on, we do a lot of good things. We just seem to go the other way too many times in the same game.''
The biggest lead was an 11-point Hiram advantage at 32-21 with 3:01 remaining in the first half when the upset Upton called for a timeout to get the Bison focus back in the game. Her players got the message and, led by Kayla Taormina's hot hand, went on a 10-2 run to pull within 34-31 at the break.
Taormina, the sparkplug 5-foot-8 junior guard and Bethany's leading scorer Saturday with 27 points, started the spurt with a strong putback after rebounding a teammate's missed shot. Another offensive rebound led to a Sami Schott bucket in the paint.
Hiram's Danielle Day got her team's last points in the half with her inside scoop at the 1:36 mark, but Bethany rallied again. Skylar Williams feed to Taormina cut the deficit to 34-27 with 1:06 left. The Bison also got the next four points on layups from Carly Garneau and Taormina.
Although the score was tied eight times overall, the lead changed hands on only three occasions.
Bethany broke out of the third tie to take a 10-7 lead on Rebecca Braithwaite's 3-pointer, only to see Christy Griffin's spinning layup put the Terriers in front for the first time at 11-10. Hiram held the lead until Taylor Verrico came off a screen and drove to the basket for a 35-35 stalemate.
Bethany gained its first and only edge of the second half at 54-52 after Mikyla Tipton's steal resulted in Taormina being fouled on her way to the basket. Taormina, with 16 of her 27 points being registered after the break, dropped in both free throws with 8:06 remaining.
Alexis Kemper, Hiram's leading scorer with 17 points, got a transition basket on a nice feed from Marissa Thomas to put the Terriers ahead to stay. The Bison got within one point two more times, the last at 61-60 on Verrigo's turnaround shot with 2:36 left. Verrigo later made it a 63-61 deficit by hitting 1 of 2 at the foul line.
In the final two minutes, the Bison twice missed layups, were called for an offensive foul and turned the ball over three more times without getting off a shot.
Verrico was Bethany's only other double figure scorer as she finished with 10 points.
Kemper was backed by Calysia Smyers' 13 points and Day's 10.
Wheeling Jesuit 72
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Wheeling Jesuit scored six of the game's final eight points in edging Pitts-Johnstown for its first conference victory of the season.
The Cardinals (3-3 overall, 1-2 WVC) trailed 67-66 before Breanna Butler nailed a 3-pointer to give WJU a 69-67 lead it wouldn't relinquish. Jamie Sobczak sealed the game with three free throws in the final moments.
Sobczak led the Cardinals with 25. Alex Anderson added 12 points, while Taneka Lewis had 11.
Kaitlynn Fratz led all scorers with 31 points for Pitt-Johnstown (3-4, 1-4). Jasmine Harper added 10 points.
Wheeling Jesuit 71
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Nick Novak scored 27 points to lead four Pitt-Johnstown players in double figures as the Mountain cats kept Wheeling Jesuit winless in the West Virginia Conference.
Bill Luther added 12 points for UPJ (6-2, 3-2), while Andrew Cressler and Noah Hartung had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Freshman Justin Fritts paced the Cardinals (2-4, 0-3) with 22 points. Darrin Harris added 11.
The score was tied at 31-31 late in the first half when UPJ went on a 10-3 run to end the half. It never trailed again.
Bethany 63, Olivet 59
BETHANY - Bethany finished on a 10-3 run to hand Olivet a loss in non-conference play.
Brady Pacific paced the Bison (9-1) with 15, 11 of which came during the first half. Leslie Addy scored 14 points and also had nine boards, four assists and three teals. James Barton added 11 points, while Nick Wilcox had 10 and 10 rebounds.