Kyle Lakin’s second of two free throws had just given McPherson College a 71-70 lead over county rival Bethany with 6:22 left in the game Thursday at the Sport Center.
But moments later, the Swedes’ Jonathan Gidson buried a 3-pointer. During the shot, the Bulldogs were called for a foul away from the play and the result was two Jerricus Funderburke free throws for one of basketball’s oddities — a five-point play.
That totally swung the momentum Bethany’s way as it fended off Mac’s upset bid, 85-77.
“I don’t even know what to say (about the five-point play),” a dejected Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said, as his team is nearly out of the playoff picture at 3-13 in the KCAC and 7-19 overall. “I guess to me, give Bethany credit. They made plays when they needed to make plays. And they shot it well from 3, which they have not really shown that this year... it just feels like other teams make plays and we don’t. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Bethany, which is making a late-season run, is now 7-8 in the conference and could very well be a team that nobody wants to play in the KCAC Postseason Tournament, the Swedes’ only chance to make nationals. They have a tremendous collection of individual talent, including Gary Jones.
Jones, who had 35 points in the first meeting between the teams, scored 31 in this one, 16 in the first half and 15 in the second as no Mac defender could slow him down.
Bethany led 36-35 at the half and every time it appeared ready to pull away, the Bulldogs would get right back in it as they took advantage of some questionable Swede shot selection, though some of those tough shots found their way into the net.
The loss spoiled a double-barreled attack by Mac’s Chris Crook and Aaron Bachura. Crook went off for a career-high 31 points and Bachura added 19, and both were 5 of 8 from 3-point. Mac, which hasn’t shot well from 3 this season, was a sizzling 13 of 27 and also made 10 of 13 at the foul line.
The Swedes were 9 of 18 from 3. In addition to Jones, Gidson scored 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Bethany ruled the backboards in the second half to finish with a 42-35 advantage after it had been close in the first half.
Mac remains at home on Saturday to play 15-0 Tabor, while the Swedes go to Sterling. Given the schedule the rest of the way it’s still a possibility that Bethany could end up with a home playoff game since after Tabor and Southwestern, the KCAC standings are jumbled. Given the way the Swedes can score the ball, they could get on a serious roll.
Mac (77) — Martinez 3, Rowell 4, Raleigh 3, Bachura 19, Crook 31, Henson 2, Roberts 4, Parker 4, Lakin 2, O’Hara 5.
Bethany (85) — Jones 31, McLin 6, Gidson 18, Habtemariam 6, Larkin 7, Peterson 6, Kelly 7, Funderburke 2, Merzwinski 2.