Saint Vincent Outlasts W&J In PAC Semifinals 85-75
LATROBE, Pa. – Top-seeded Saint Vincent withstood a spirited effort from fifth-seeded Washington & Jefferson and held on to earn an 85-75 victory in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinals on Thursday evening at the Carey Center.
The Bearcats (22-4) will now move on to host second-seeded Thomas More in Saturday night’s conference championship game at 7:30 pm. The Saints defeated third-seeded Thiel 86-80 in Kentucky to advance to the title game.
Saint Vincent stormed out of the locker rooms and scored the first 11 points of the game. The Presidents regrouped and cut the deficit to 29-27 10 minutes later after sophomore forward Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) scored five consecutive points.
The Bearcats answered with the next eight points, including a run-capping, follow-up dunk by Dillon Stith, and took a 43-34 lead into halftime.
Sophomore point guard Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Latrobe) and Zach Bellhy both knocked down triples in the opening minutes of the second half to bring the Presidents to within 45-40.
The Presidents’ surge continued and a 10-0 spurt put the visitors in front 55-53 with 12 minutes remaining after a three-pointer by Johnson and a putback from sophomore forward Mitch Locher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth). Johnson canned another trifecta at the 10-minute mark for a 58-55 advantage and Zach Bellhy’s jumper at the 8:20 mark made it a 62-57 game.
The Bearcats hung tough and used an 11-3 run to grab a 72-69 advantage with 3:20 left. Isaac Turner had a pair of key baskets in the final four minutes and the Bearcats, despite missing 12 free throws in the second half, made seven of their final eight foul shots to clinch the win.
Zach Bellhy finished with 21 points and became the first W&J player in history to score 500 or more points twice during a career. He ended his senior season with 503 points and as the fourth-leading scorer in school history with 1,493 points.
Senior forward Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) added 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists in his final collegiate game. He made 5-of-6 field goals and all six of his free throws. Johnson netted 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
Turner paced the Bearcats with 25 points, while Chris Klimchock fired in 17 of his 20 points in the first half.
Washington & Jefferson’s season comes to an end with a 9-18 overall record.