City hoop rivals square off Wednesday

By Steve Sell
November 10, 2015

As former McPherson College men’s basketball coach Roger Trimmell used to say, it should be “SRO” on Wednesday at the Sport Center.

That’s “standing room only,” which typically occurs when city rivals McPherson College and Central Christian College hook up for the unofficial “Mayor’s Cup.”

There’s no actual cup and the mayor probably won’t be there, though he’s a basketball fan.

The women’s teams tip off the action at 6 p.m., but it’s the men’s game at 8:00 that has everybody riveted.

The Tigers, 1-1 on the season, will be playing their third KCAC team in as many games. They shocked some observers with their 87-82 victory over a Friends team that has four starters back from an NAIA National Tournament team, but then inexplicably lost 83-78 to a Kansas Wesleyan team that was picked near the bottom of the KCAC preseason polls. The Tigers let a nine-point lead in the second half dissolve as the Coyotes could hardly miss the last 10 minutes.

Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber attended the Friends game and came away more than just a little impressed.

“They are as athletic a team as we will face all year,” said Swartzendruber, whose team succumbed to the Tigers 81-71 last year at a spirited Alexander Arena. “They are outstanding on the offensive glass and in transition. Michael Gholston is one of the best wing players we will see. He is off to a great start this year. For us, I believe it will be important to value the ball and be good on the glass.”

Gholston has been fabulous for the Tigers, averaging 27.5 points a game and making a mind-boggling 12 of 16 shots from 3-point. Another Tiger who concerns Swartzendruber is high-flying Alonzo Stafford, who has eight dunks in two games and averages 16 points. Sam Clayborn checks in at 14.5, while Daniel Nwosuh is a three-year starter at the point, as the Tigers are long are experience.

CCC coach Tony Romero witnessed Mac in its 95-63 rout of Manhattan Christian and also was impressed with what he saw. Reed Rowell, a 6-8 center, will be a focus of the CCC defense, though the Bulldogs have relied on balance so far.

“They’re a very good team, I think they’re much improved from last year for sure,” Romero said. “They’re really, really deep and coach Swartzendruber does a really great job.”

In the women’s game, somebody is going to gain that first elusive “W.” Mac is 0-4, but has played as tough of a schedule as any team in the KCAC as the losses have been to teams with national tourney aspirations. Central is 0-2 as it has played short-handed until the soccer season concludes as it has some players who will be joining the team.

Newcomers Ashton Bruner for McPherson and Heather Crittenden have been tremendous additions for their teams. Bruner has three double-doubles in four games, while Crittenden has averaged 20 points in the two losses.

The Bulldogs won last year’s meeting, 76-52.