With 3:03 left in Saturday’s game at the Sport Center, it appeared to be another double-digit loss for McPherson College’s women against one of their longtime chief tormentors Friends University as they trailed by 13 points.
In the previous 10 games between the teams, the Falcons had won by no less than 18 points and several of the margins were much, much more than that.
But the Bulldogs caught fire the rest of the way. They amazingly ran off a 16-2 run, with Ashton Bruner scoring with 8 seconds left to give them an improbable 64-63 lead.
But for the second time in as many home games, the Bulldogs couldn’t close the game out. Friends’ All-KCAC standout Shann Sellers went right to the basket virtually unchallenged and made a layup with 2 seconds left for the 65-64 win.
Mac has now lost a KCAC game at the buzzer and another with 2 seconds left. Had it closed both games out, it would be 4-1 in the KCAC and pushing Tabor for the top spot.
As it is, it’s 2-3 in the KCAC and 3-8 overall, which also includes blowing a 16-point lead at home to Hillsdale in the first game of the season.
“I said in our timeout, Sellers is going to take this last shot,” Mac coach Gordon Reimer said. “I said make sure we double team and somebody take a charge because she’s going to go to the basket. We didn’t quite get that done.”
The loss spoiled a terrific game by Bruner, the former McPherson High Bullpup. She scored 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, fulfilling Reimer’s preseason prediction that on some nights she can take a game over.
“Ashton did such a great job of keeping us in it,” Reimer said. “She played unbelievable.”
The Bulldogs probably would have won the game if not for their 30 turnovers against the in-your-face Friends defense. That resulted in Mac taking only 45 shots compared to 67 for the Falcons. The Bulldogs did get to the line 30 times, making 23, while Friends stayed more on the outside, taking 28 3-pointers.
Bailey Brown was Bruner’s wing girl with 18 points, including 8 of 10 at the foul line as she showed her usual no fear of taking the ball to the basket.
Sellers finished with 22 points, 18 of those coming in the second half.
The Bulldogs play Thursday at Bethany, which has played a lot of teams close but is still winless in the KCAC.
Mac (64) — Bruner 24, Acklin 2, Brown 18, S. Smart 9, Jefferson 3, Battle 5, Racette 3.
Friends (65) — Sanders 4, Sellers 22, Justice 8, Quiroz 4, Harris 2, Booker 12, Grant 3, Holtz 6, Duncan 2, Torres 2.
• FRIENDS MEN 81, MAC 66 — It’s becoming a broken record.
Once again, the Bulldogs were right there, down only 49-47 to a Friends team that returns four starters that were on the floor for last year’s national tournament.
But the Bulldogs faded again late, giving up 32 points over the final 10 minutes for the deceiving final margin.
If you can’t shoot, you can’t win. Mac was just 22 of 55 from the floor, an ego-sapping 5 of 22 from 3-point as this team has come nowhere near the first home game of the season when it made 16 of 32 outside the arc.
“We just don’t close games out,” Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said. “You’ve got to make shots. We’re not just making shots. Five of 22 from 3-point... it’s hard to know what to say.”
Chris Crook had a nice game for Mac with 17 points. Ramon Martinez scored 14 before fouling out and Dee Roberts added 12. Kaleb Ratliff, the only new starter for the Falcons, scored 16.
Toby Baxter, who had 46 points recently against Bethany, was held to 14, 10 of those coming in the last 6 minutes as Kyle Lakin did another scotch-tape defensive job on a high-scoring guard. Ten of Baxter’s points came late at the line, as he was held to 2 of 10 from the field.
The Bulldogs, who have lost five in a row to drop to 3-9, take a 1-4 KCAC record to Lindsborg on Thursday to play Bethany. The Swedes surprisingly are 0-4 despite the fact they have as much athletic talent in the KCAC, according to Swartzendruber.
Mac (66) — Martinez 14, O’Hara 2, Roberts 12, Crook 17, Lakin 4, Raleigh 3, Lowe 8, Bachura 5, Parker 1.
Friends (81) — Singhateh 11, Ratliff 16, Johnson 14, Williams 9, Baxter 14, Osborn 2, Rowe 2, Larch-Miller 8, Varmall 2, Bell 3.