Bluffton University 77, Manchester College 70
Beavers down Manchester on road; advance to semifinals of HCAC Tournament
By Molly Burnell and Chad Hochstetler, sports information assistants
February 22, 2005
2005 Heartland Conference men's tournament pairings
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. - The Bluffton University men's basketball team (14-12, 6-8 HCAC) advanced to the semifinal round of the HCAC tournament by defeating Manchester College (14-12, 8-6 HCAC) 77-70 on Feb. 22.
With the win, Bluffton will play at number one seed Hanover College on Friday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. The Beavers spilt the season series winning at Hanover on Jan. 8 (59-55), but fell at home to the Panthers on Jan. 29 (74-51). Hanover advanced to the semifinals by defeating Defiance College 78-60.
"I am really proud of our players and the way we played tonight," said head coach Guy Neal. "The group improved over the season and I had a feeling that we were going to advance to the next round."
The game started with both teams exchanging the lead several times. However, the Beavers took a six point lead midway through the first half. Sophomore Michael Anthony (Ohio City/Delphos St. John's) scored 14 of his 19 total points in the first period, yet the game was tied going into halftime at 33 apiece. For the period Bluffton shot a solid 56 percent (15-of-27) compared to 48 percent (13-of-27) by the Spartans.
In the second half, the Beavers started by controlling the tempo early and built an eight point lead off a layup by junior Eric Sweet (Ottawa/Ottawa Glandorf). Manchester fought back to tie the game at 64 with three minutes remaining. Senior Bryce Beilharz (Bluffton/Cory-Rawson) connected on a key three-pointer to give the Beavers a narrow three point lead (67-64) with 2:14 left. The Spartans committed four fouls and two turnovers in the last two minutes which led to twelve Bluffton free throws. Junior Scott Bergman (Elmore/Woodmore) clinched the win for the Beavers as he went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe and came up with a key steal in the last 16 seconds. Bluffton went on to win the game 77-70 and clinched their first ever Heartland Conference playoff victory since joining the league in 1998.
"I am very pleased with how the guys played down the stretch. They did a great job tonight and didn't give up," Neal said.
Leading the Beavers on the evening was Bergman with 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Sweet added ten points, dished out four assists and blocked two shots. Anthony added five rebounds.
For the game, Bluffton shot 53 percent (29-of-54) compared to Manchester's 43 percent (25-of-57). The Beavers also out rebounded the Spartans 31-24.