KCAC basketball fans were glued to their cell phones and computers for updates on Saturday as the conference races were being determined on the final night of the regular season.
96.7 KBBE-FM sports director Chris Swick and I were monitoring the Southwestern-Oklahoma Wesleyan women’s game as we were calling the McPherson College-Saint Mary game.
Mac needed to win its game just to make the playoffs, as well as a Southwestern win to earn a home berth. The Bulldogs prevailed 67-61 in a tense game all the way, which knocked out the Spires. There were five teams fighting for four spots entering the night and Saint Mary ended up being the odd team out.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs didn’t get the help they wanted as Oklahoma Wesleyan defeated Southwestern on the Builders’ home court. That means Mac is going to Winfield on Wednesday to play Southwestern, a team they have played two down-to-the-wire games with, winning both. The first was in Winfield in December when MC’s Ashton Bruner scored with 2 seconds left as the Bulldogs pulled it out of the fire after trailing much of the game. In the return match at the Sport Center, Mac had a good-sized lead before Southwestern charged back to make it interesting at the end.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they are down two starters since that last meeting, as both Reagan McClellan and Brooke Racette are done for the year with knee injuries. But every time this Mac team has had its back up against the wall, it seems to respond.
The other first-round games on Wednesday find Kansas Wesleyan at champion Tabor, Ottawa at Oklahoma Wesleyan and Sterling at Friends.
Kansas Wesleyan has been the most confounding team to me. The Coyotes could have beaten any team in the country when the Bulldogs played them in Salina as they made 17 3-pointers. The return match was a double-overtime dilly, with KW again winning. Yet, the Coyotes needed Mac’s win on Saturday to back into the playoffs as they have astonishingly lost eight of their last nine despite having some of the best talent in the KCAC.
On the men’s side, which begins play on Thursday, it’s Bethel at 20-0 Tabor, Friends at Ottawa, Bethany at Saint Mary and Oklahoma Wesleyan at Southwestern.
I have a feeling Bethany is a team to keep an eye on. Having seen all the teams this year, the Swedes probably have the second-most talent in the KCAC. They can score at will as they play at a super-sonic pace, but also give up points in bunches. If Clair Oleen’s team plays even a lick of defense, it has the athletes to make a run much like 2013 when McPherson College won the tournament after getting in as the eighth-and-last seed. Bethany is sixth and could possibly have challenged for the title had All-America candidate Cody Harris not been lost for the year after the fourth game. Harris would easily have been one of the five best players in the KCAC as he was so explosive and had unlimited range.
I’m picking the Swedes to knock off Saint Mary and then stun Southwestern in the semifinals. Could Bethany be making a 2003-like Swede run when Oleen’s team finished second in the nation after not winning the KCAC title during the season? Stay tuned.