Bethany Topples PAC-Leading W&J
Bison Deal Presidents First Conference Loss
BETHANY — The Bethany women’s basketball team knocked off conference-leading Washington & Jefferson 64-59 in front of a rowdy home crowd inside the Hummel Field House Wednesday evening.
It was the first conference loss of the season for the Presidents (12-4, 9-1 PAC) as the Bison (10-5, 5-3) remain unbeaten at home.
“It’s such a program win for us,” said Bethany coach Brian Sansom. “We’ve tried to set a new standard with the things we do as a team and for that you’ve got to beat programs like Grove City, St. Vincent and W&J and we’ve got those three so far.”
Bethany’s largest lead of the night came at the 7:30 mark in the third quarter when Ashleigh Wheeler hit a 3-pointer that put the Bison up by 12, 34-22. That was also when the Presidents began to fight their way back into the game.
W&J went on an 11-point run to shrink the deficit to just one point, 34-33 before Bethany’s Lindsey Garrison sank a 3-pointer that gave the Bison some breathing room again.
W&J tied the game at 41 at the end of the quarter on a jumper from Aleena McDaniel and then took their first lead since the opening minutes when McDaniel converted an and-one midway through the fourth that put them up 49-47.
“Even when we had that big lead and they came back and took the lead, we stayed composed,” Sansom said. “They’re 12-3, 9-0 for a reason, they’re good and they’re going to make plays and hit shots, but we’re pretty good too.”
Any time it seemed like the Presidents were going to pull away and build a lead, someone from Bethany was able to hit a big shot.
Courtney Walker made a triple that put the Bison back up 50-49, Garrison later hit a 3 that tied the game at 51-51 and Makenzee Mason hit the layup that gave Bethany the lead for good, 59-57, with a minute and a half left to play.
“We’re just kind of in the right place at the right time,” Garrison said. “Our teammates look for us to get 3s because we’re some of the better 3-point shooters.”
With the crowd hooting, hollering, chatting, cheering, singing and all around losing their minds late in the game, the Bison were able to maintain their composure down the stretch, Garrison and Mason sank free throws late and they held on to win 64-59.
“It’s small and it echoes in here so when the crowd’s going, it’s a special place,” Sansom said of the atmosphere Wednesday. “The support (our students) give each other is so crucial at a small college and I think that made a difference.
“We fed off that and late (in the game), that noise, our defense and our composure I think are what put us over the top.”
The Bison led 26-19 at halftime thanks to their stingy full-court defense. They forced nine first-half turnovers from W&J, scored 11 points off those turnovers and held the Presidents to just seven points in the second quarter.
“We’ve really invested in how we defend,” Sansom said. “It’s been something that when we bring teams in here to Bethany, we want to make it hard for them to score and I think we do a really good job.”
Garrison, a freshman from nearby Wheeling Park high school, finished as the game’s leading scorer with 28 points and shot an astonishing 14 of 14 from the free throw line, including two to extend Bethany’s lead with 20 second left.
“I kind of try to block everything out and just focus on making it,” Garrison said of her approach to foul shots.
She also led the team with four triples and three steals.
“It’s unbelievable to somebody on the outside that doesn’t get to see her day in and day out,” Sansom said. “I’m not shocked, she’ll be in (the gym Thursday) even though she said she felt
like she ran 10 miles tonight.
“She puts the work in,” he continued. “This didn’t happen overnight, she’s put the time in to get to those moments. 14 for 14 from the foul line as a freshman, against the top team in the conference is absolutely outstanding.”
“It feels really good (to win) since we lost to them at their place,” Garrison said. “So to win at home, and we haven’t lost at home yet, it feels really good.”
Wheeler, also a freshman, finished second on the team with 16 points, making three treys of her own.
“Ashleigh doesn’t get enough credit,” Sansom said. “She hit some big threes there in the second half and she made some really good decisions. And then you saw at times that she was a freshman and made some decisions that we wish we could’ve taken back, but she learns from them quick.”
Mason was third on the team with 11 points while Taylor Stinnett led the team with eight rebounds, including the offensive board that set up Mason’s go-ahead bucket inside of two minutes to play.
Overall, Bethany out-rebounded W&J 33-28 despite a fairly significant size disadvantage.
“They’re big, we talk about that a lot,” Sansom said. “We’ve been getting out-rebounded lately so we got back to some basics of just being fundamental and knowing where the ball’s going to bounce off the rim. To have 12 offensive rebounds is unbelievable against a team that big.”
Piper Morningstar led W&J with 14 points, followed by Kamryn Lach with 13 and McDaniel with 10.
The win propelled the Bison into a tie for third place in the PAC and showed that the Bison can be real players for the PAC championship come season’s end.
“Jina (DeRubbo) is such a great coach and (Washington & Jefferson) is such a great program that for us to win here at home, it’s special,” Sansom said. “I hope that just boosts our confidence and we continue to feed off that as we continue forward.”