The Sport Center is becoming a true homecourt advantage for the McPherson College women’s basketball team.
The Bulldogs won their sixth straight home game on Wednesday and did it in typical fashion as went it down to the wire. Mac fended off last-place Bethel 71-62 to finally get back to the .500 mark in conference play at 6-6 and now stands 9-13 overall after winning four of its last five.
“Going into a stretch where we play some of the top-tier teams, we really needed to get this one,” Mac coach Gordon Reimer said.
The Bulldogs, who were up as many as 16 points in the first half, still had a healthy 39-23 lead at the break and took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Bethel, however, cranked up the fullcourt pressure and made it a one-possession game, 64-61, with 3:14 to go. The Bulldogs, though, did not allow a field goal the rest of the way by ending the game on a 7-1 run.
Seniors Ashton Bruner and Bailey Brown, as they have done much of the year, led the Bulldogs. Bruner just missed another double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Brown had 15 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in addition to holding top Thresher scorer Lauren Ulrich in check as she scored just 12 points in her final Sport Center regular-season appearance.
Amanda Allen scored nine points and pulled down five rebounds for Mac, while coming up with a couple of key offensive rebounds in crunch time. Georgia Smart led another strong effort by the Bulldog reserves with eight points, making 4 of 5 shots.
Elise Gerlach had a fine game in defeat with 19 points.
The Bulldogs now face a brutal three-game stretch. They play on Saturday at Ottawa, are home against Kansas Wesleyan on Wednesday, then KCAC leader Tabor comes to town the following Saturday. The Bulldogs, who have climbed to fifth place, actually have passed Ottawa in the standings due to the Lady Braves’ recent slump.
Mac (71) — Bruner 18, Allen 9, Brown 15, S. Smart 5, Battle 6, Racette 5, G. Smart 8, Kelly 3, Acklin 2.
Bethel (62) — Scott 7, Tschetter 6, Ulrich 12, Gerlach 19, Schunn 1, Schmieder 4, McKinney 2, Chapple 6, Carbonell 1, Schroeder 3, McDowell 1.
• BETHEL MEN 66, MAC 58 — The McPherson College men are getting further away from making postseason play.
In what amounted almost to a must-win situation, the Bulldogs were up 34-30 at the half, but went a 10-minute stretch in the second half where they made only two field goals as Bethel continued its recent good play. The Threshers, after starting the season 0-10, are now 7-5 in their last dozen games.
Cold shooting was again the culprit. Mac was just 11 of 33 in the second half and finished the game at 38 percent, all of which left Bulldog coach Tim Swartzendruber just shaking his head.
“I thought we came out with more energy and thought we rebounded better in the first half,” Swartzendruber said. “One thing we have been able to do is get to the free throw line and we weren’t able to do that tonight (just 4 of 6, 0 of 0 in the second half). You look at our shooting and we settled too much. We took some quick shots, we took shots when Bethel got it going that we shouldn’t have taken.”
The Bulldogs, despite a small height advantage, casted off 24 3-pointers, making six.
Chris Crook led Mac with 18 points and Dee Roberts came off the bench to score 16. Ramon Martinez added 10.
Deven Goodwin led Bethel with 16 points.
To make the playoffs, the Bulldogs must past three teams in their final eight games. They are two games back of Kansas Wesleyan and Oklahoma Wesleyan and three games back of three teams.
It doesn’t get any easier for Mac, now 6-16 overall, as it plays Saturday at Ottawa.
Mac (58) — Martinez 10, O’Hara 3, Bachura 2, Crook 18, Raleigh 3, Lowe 4, Roberts 16, Parker 2.
Bethel (66) — Miler 4, Goodwin 16, Kingsley 8, Mitchell 15, Craig 14, Jones 3, Robinson 2, Fort 4.