Mac-Central a must-see game tonight

By Steve Sell
November 11, 2015

Sometimes I just wish McPherson College’s men and Central Christian College could just play each other every game.

Tonight’s renewal of their intracity basketball rivalry takes place at the Sport Center, which will have its most electricity than any other game this year.

The Central Christian College students will be there in full throat. McPherson College will counter with its spirited Red-Out Night section. 

You better go early if you want to get a good seat.

These two teams, separated by 5 minutes, always give us a great show. To we old-timers, it conjures up memories of Bird vs. Magic, Wilt vs. Russell, Jordan vs. the Bad Boys. When you leave tonight, you’ll know you have been entertained.

Having seen both teams this year, I’ll be surprised if the game doesn’t go down to the wire. The winner is the city champ for the next year and the loser has a year to let the loss burn in its stomach. Emotions will run high, especially at the start, so don’t expect great basketball early because the adrenaline has to wear off.

I think the job Tony Romero has done at Central has been beyond remarkable. He basically has to go out of state to recruit because top Kansas players simply don’t give Central much of a look. He gets players from Texas, Florida, New York and Michigan among other places.

The Tigers are probably the more athletic team, specifically Alonzo Stafford and Michael Gholston. I have written about Stafford before, he’s probably the most athletically gifted player either school has had in my 37 years of covering both. He plays far above the rim and always makes everyone’s jaw drop once or twice. It’s a given.

Gholston could quite frankly be playing at a higher level. He’s a 6-5 guard with unlimited range. He’s — get this — 12 of 16 from 3-point. I have been at both of his games and sometimes you don’t realize his shots have gone in because there’s barely a ripple of the net.

Romero doesn’t have his full complement of players yet — he has some reinforcements coming at semester to give his team more depth – and with the pace it plays, in both games it has been tired at the end. 

As for the Bulldogs, I have only seen them once. Tim Swartzendruber, like Romero, has done a job that I didn’t think was possible at Mac and that was get his team to nationals, not once, not twice, not three times, but four straight times. However, the team slid back the last two years and it’s something that hasn’t sat well with him or his players.

Swartzendruber has fortified his ranks with three key transfers. He finally has a legit big man in 6-8 and 240-pound Reed Rowell, who knows his way around the basket with some deft footwork. Ryan O’Hara is a steady 6-5 forward, while Dee Roberts is an X-factor. He is Gholston-like from the outside and wouldn’t it be great tonight if both were at the top of their game? It would be a 3-point-fest.

The outcome is going to come down to defense and foul trouble. The Tigers have had a habit of giving up way too many second-chance opportunities. For Mac, it must come close to shooting the ball like it did in its only home game. I can see the Bulldogs at times struggling to score.

I can’t wait to see this. I know I’ll get my fill of entertainment, that’s for sure.