McPherson College’s women’s basketball team was on the verge of a major upset to start the season here Tuesday.
The Bulldogs led Hillsdale Baptist — 24-3 last year and a national tournament (NCCAA) participant — by 16 points in the second half.
But the Bulldogs got away from the things that helped them build the lead and the Saints charged back at the end of regulation to get the game tied, then outscored Mac 13-10 in the extra session to escape the Sport Center with an 85-82 victory.
“You look at the stat sheet and they were 7 of 11 in the second half (from 3-point) for 63 percent and we’re 2 for 20 for 10 percent,” a disappointed Mac coach Gordon Reimer said. “That’s a stat we needed to win, for sure. I don’t remember anyone making 7 of 11 against us in a half before.”
It was clearly evident there’s no comparison between this year’s Bulldog team and the one that went 4-26 last year. Mac is much more athletic and deeper, as all 11 players who saw action scored.
Still, it was a painful way to open the season as it appeared it had the game well under control until Brooke Davidson came off the bench to rain five second-half 3-pointers. Down 54-38, the Saints started to work their way back as they cut the lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter, 60-49.
The Bulldogs never surrendered the lead in regulation, but a late basket by Tiffani Dorman tied it for the Saints and Mac couldn’t get a good attempt off at the end of regulation.
The Bulldogs led early in the overtime, 78-74, but their shot selection late and a couple of key 3-pointers vaulted the Saints to the win.
Just as last year, the Bulldogs were led by the guard tandem of Bailey Brown and Sunny Smart, as both tossed in 17 points. But this year they have some help, as Ashton Bruner had a sensational first game with 14 points and 15 rebounds as she was incredibly active around the basket. Had she not encountered foul trouble that reduced her minutes, there's no telling what kind of numbers she would have put up.
Hillsdale’s bench was a key as it received an amazing 50 points off the pine, including 21 by Davidson and 10 by Dorman. 6-2 center Julia Robinson also hit for double figures with 12 points.
The Bulldogs continue their difficult early schedule on Saturday when they play in Lawrence against Haskell, which the past few years has been one of the best teams in the now-defunct MCAC.
Mac (82) — Bruner 14, Acklin 7, Battle 9, S. Smart 17, Brown 17, James 1, Jefferson 2, Racette 3, G. Smart 4, McClellan 3, Allen 5.
Hillsdale (85) — Edwards 4, Robinson 12, Grant 9, McBride 8, Perry 2, White 3, Dorman 10, Davidson 21, Ellis 9, Smith 7.