It was the perfect storm for McPherson College’s women basketball team on Thursday.
The Bulldogs, who have struggled mightily on the road in conference play this year, made the exhaustive trip to Oklahoma and came away with a 73-71 victory over an Oklahoma Wesleyan team that was receiving votes in this week’s NAIA national poll.
It also completed a season sweep of the Eagles by Mac, which also swept another team ahead of it in the KCAC standings, Southwestern.
That was only part of the story. Southwestern, Kansas Wesleyan, Saint Mary and Saint Mary all lost, which is what Mac needed to happen.
The Bulldogs now reside in fifth place in the KCAC, with the top four hosting first-round playoff games. Mac is a game back of Southwestern and the schedule would appear to favor the Bulldogs. Mac has played one more game, so all it has left is a road game Thursday at Sterling and home game next Saturday against Saint Mary. Southwestern closes with three straight games at home, but after Saturday’s game with Bethany, it has to deal with two teams ahead of it in the standings, Tabor and Oklahoma Wesleyan.
Ottawa, which like Mac has nine losses, plays at a desperate 10-loss Kansas Wesleyan on Saturday, hosts second-place Friends on Thursday and closes with Bethany at venerable Hahn Gym next Saturday.
Kansas Wesleyan follows up its game with Ottawa on Saturday by playing at Friends on the final night of the season. It is the KCAC’s open team on Thursday.
Finally Saint Mary, also a game back of Mac in the loss column, has to play at Tabor, host Oklahoma Wesleyan and then come to Mac, which plays very well at home.
So the Bulldogs would appear to control their own destiny as far as a home playoff game. I believe a sweep gets them fourth place, because Southwestern has no bargains with champion Tabor and Oklahoma Wesleyan, which is an intense game because OW head coach Jason Jeschke was a one-time Moundbuilder assistant.
This has been quite a turnaround season for the Mac women, who were 4-26 last year. A big reason for the revival has been the addition of McPherson High graduate Ashton Bruner, who has established herself as one of the best players in the KCAC. Bailey Brown is right there with her as they combine to form maybe the best 1-2 punch in the conference. Coach Gordon Reimer also has done a good job of building the team’s depth, though he’s going to be a recruiting demon this offseason as he loses seven seniors.
The Bulldogs have been a fun team to watch, especially at home. They are 8-5 here, losing two games in overtime and two others in the last second of regulation. They even had Tabor sweating a bit, down just five points late in the third quarter, before the undefeated KCAC champions pulled away.
If Mac can get a home playoff game, it could very well advance to the semifinals.