STERLING — The McPherson College men aren’t going to make the KCAC basketball playoffs, but they could have a say as to who does.
Sterling College entered Thursday’s home game needing a win over the last-place Bulldogs to clinch a berth, but the Warriors were simply overwhelmed by some hot Mac 3-point shooting that keyed a 72-57 victory and spoiled Sterling’s Senior Night.
The Bulldogs are now 4-15 in the KCAC while Sterling finished 8-12. The Warriors now must await Saturday’s results to see if they get in. Bethany and Oklahoma Wesleyan are at 8-11, with the Swedes hosting Ottawa and Wesleyan going to Southwestern.
Down three points midway through the first half, Mac went on a 22-6 rip over the final 10 minutes to lead 36-23 at the half, making 7 of 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Sterling scored the first six points of the second half, but it proved to be only a flicker. The Bulldogs never allowed the lead to get into single digits the final 16 minutes as they finished 14 of 29 from beyond the arc.
“We’re playing for pride, that’s all we’re playing for,” Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said as his team is now 8-21 on the season. “We had three really intense practices and the guys responded well.”
Chris Crook led Mac with 20 points, while Dee Roberts and DeAndre Henson came off the bench bombing with 17 and 15 points, respectively. They combined to make 7 of 11 3-pointers, while Reed Rowell took care of the inside work by sweeping the boards for 13 rebounds. For one of the few times this season, Mac had a decisive rebounding advantage against a taller team, 41-34.
The Bulldogs totally shackled former Buhler star Brandon Givens, who was 0 of 8 from the field. Swartzendruber ranks him as one of the two-best 3-point shooters in the KCAC along with Jensen Kingsley of Bethel.
Josiah Ray kept the game from totally getting out of hand with 21 points to lead Sterling. The Warriors have been in a free fall, as they followed up a 6-4 first half in the KCAC with a 2-8 second half.
Mac hosts Saint Mary in its season finale at 5 p.m. Saturday. Note the early starting time.
Mac (72) — Parker 6, Rowell 3, Bachura 3, Crook 20, Henson 12, Roberts 17, Lakin 5, O’Hara 6.
Sterling (57) — Williams 10, Ray 21, Gardner 11, Oyatayo 1, Speer 5, Dubbert 2, Sizemore 2, Starks 5.
• STERLING WOMEN 53, MAC 52 — The Bulldogs were one defensive stop away from clinching a KCAC playoff berth.
They couldn’t get it.
Sterling’s Hailey Davis scored on a twisting layup with 1.5 seconds left to give Sterling the win as the Bulldogs let a 50-45 lead get away in the final 3 minutes.
It was a stunning loss for Mac, which is now 9-10 in the KCAC and 12-17 overall. Amazingly, with such a logjam, the Bulldogs could still finish in fourth place or miss the playoffs all together. There are five teams fighting for four spots and the Bulldogs need a win at home Saturday to secure their spot.
Mac — which trailed 10-0 to start the game — led late 50-45, but the Warriors charged back to lead 51-50 on a basket by Megan Stagner. Ashton Bruner put Mac ahead with 22 seconds to go with a tough inside move.
Sterling went for the final shot. The Bulldogs forced a jump ball with 7.6 seconds remaining, but the possession arrow stayed with Sterling. Davis worked herself free inside for an off-balance shot that curled in.
Mac had one last chance after a timeout, but the inbounds pass attempted for Bruner was too tall.
Mac and Ottawa are now 9-10 in the KCAC, a game back of 10-9 Oklahoma Wesleyan, which Mac swept during the regular season.
Sterling finished 9-11, while Kansas Wesleyan and Saint Mary are 8-11.
Bailey Brown led Mac with 14 points. Kristina Battle hit three huge 3s in the second half and scored 11 points, while Bruner furnished 10. Jessica Princ had a double-double for Sterling with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs host Saint Mary at 3 p.m. Saturday. Note the special starting time.
Mac (52) — Bruner 10, G. Smart 2, Brown 14, Smart 7, Jefferson 2, Battle 11, Allen 6.
Sterling (53) — Stagner 7, Greer 4, Brickell 6, Davis 11, Princ 18, McNichols 3, Gasper 1, Sokoloski 3.