Men’s Hoops Set For Semifinal Matchup With Saint Vincent
WASHINGTON, Pa. – For the sixth time in the last seven seasons, Washington & Jefferson College will make an appearance in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals when facing Saint Vincent on Thursday at 7:00 pm in Latrobe.
The fifth-seeded Presidents (9-17, 6-10) will be taking on the top-seeded Bearcats (21-5, 15-1) with a spot in Saturday’s PAC Championship game on the line. The other semifinal pits No. 2 Thomas More hosting No. 3 Thiel.
W&J advanced to the semifinals after mounting a furious comeback during the final five minutes at Bethany Tuesday. The Presidents trailed by eight points with under five minutes to play, but held the Bison scoreless for the remainder of the game, while scoring the final 14 points to claim a 70-64 victory.
Sophomores Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Greater Latrobe) and Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) fueled the 14-0 run with five points each. Johnson got the surge started by canning a three-pointer and Bellhy added a triple of his own that tied the game one minute later. Johnson gave W&J its first lead of the second half with a layup, while Bellhy and senior forward Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) followed with baskets to secure the victory.
Johnson led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Bellhy contributed 18 points and seven rebounds. The duo both connected on 4-of-6 shots from beyond the arc. Cecchini made 8-of-12 shots, finishing with 16 points. Senior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) was the fourth President to reach double figures with 11 points. His 482 points this winter tie Cy Godfrey ‘55 for the fifth-highest, single-season total in school history.
Saint Vincent earned its spot in the semifinals with a 72-62 home victory over eighth-seeded Waynesburg Tuesday. The Bearcats trailed 39-38 with 13:15 to play, but Isaac Turner and Dillon Stith took over by combining to score 14 points as SVC outscored the Yellow Jackets 19-10 over the next eight minutes to gain an eight-point lead. Saint Vincent made 10-of-12 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
The Bearcats played the game without second-leading scorer Chris Klimchock, who missed the contest due to injury. Klimchock is the PAC’s fifth-leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, just behind Turner (15.8 ppg).
SVC has won 10-straight games, a streak that includes a nine-point home victory over W&J on Jan. 23. Klimchock and Turner combined for 37 points during the Bearcats’ 70-61 win. Zach Bellhy paced the Presidents with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double and sophomore guard Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa./McKeesport) added 11 points and nine boards in 25 minutes off the bench.
The Bearcats also claimed a 73-63 victory at the Henry Memorial Center on Dec. 5 and have won five-straight overall in the series. Tuesday’s game is the 52nd meeting all-time between the teams, with W&J holding a slight 26-25 edge, but it will be the first time the Presidents and Bearcats have faced off in the PAC Tournament.
W&J has lost six consecutive games at the Carey Center. The Presidents’ last victory in Latrobe came on Feb. 3, 2007, when Washington & Jefferson all-time leading scorer Jon Koch ’07 pumped in 33 points, while adding eight rebounds and seven assists during an 88-83 overtime victory. Since that win, the Bearcats have won all six games on their home court, but the largest margin of victory was 11 (65-54 on Feb. 2, 2011).
During his last four games against SVC, Zach Bellhy is averaging 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. He is a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw stripe during those contests. If Bellhy reaches his scoring average, he will become the first player in school history with two 500-point seasons.
W&J has lost three consecutive semifinal round games since advancing to the tournament’s championship game during consecutive seasons (2006-07 and 2007-08). The Presidents own a 10-10 overall mark in the PAC Tournament, including a 3-3 record in semifinal games.
The championship game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday night at a time still to be determined. W&J has advanced to the title contest three times, but has never claimed the league tournament crown. The Presidents’ last PAC Championship came during the 1994-95 season when the league crowned the regular-season champion.