WINFIELD — The way McPherson College senior Ashton Bruner started on Wednesday against Southwestern in the KCAC Tournament quarterfinals, a 50-point game wasn’t out of the question.
Bruner shredded Southwestern’s man-to-man defense for the first 13 Bulldog points and had 21 by the half, scoring on a variety of athletic spin moves that left the Moundbuilder defenders nailed to the floor. She propelled the Bulldogs to a 32-31 halftime lead, as the Builders worked their way back from an early nine-point deficit.
But Southwestern wisely switched to zone and Bruner’s effectiveness was slowed as every time she got into the lane she was surrounded and was forced to kick the ball out. The Bulldogs couldn’t throw the ball in ocean from long range and Southwestern was able to capture a 74-64 decision to move on to play Tabor on Saturday. Friends will host Ottawa in the other semifinal.
Bruner finished with 28 points and eight rebounds as she had a spectacular season, her only one as a Bulldog as she transferred to her hometown to play her final year.
A 5-of-30 effort from 3-point did the Bulldogs in. It got to the point in the second half where the Builders simply didn’t put much pressure on the Mac shooters and let them fire away at will.
“We got off to a really good start against their man defense and then they went zone,” said Mac coach Gordon Reimer, whose team finished 13-18 after going 4-26 last year. “They really clogged up the middle and we really needed some people to step up and knock down some shots for us. But we were 5 for 30 and you’re not going to win many games doing that.”
Bruner’s 13-point flurry at the start gave Mac a 13-4 lead, but foul trouble and the Bulldogs’ lack of depth really started to show. The Bulldogs had only nine available players due mainly to injuries and only one point guard, freshman Kristina Battle. She played just under 35 admirable minutes and scored 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished for three assists as she showed she’s going to be a major contributor for years to come.
Southwestern started the second half fast and the Bulldogs, in a zone of their own, used up a lot of energy chasing. Compound that with foul trouble and baskets became easier and easier as the Builders piled up 25 points in the quarter and were able to ride that to the victory.
Kayla Lovell came off the bench to lead Southwestern with 16 points, seven in the decisive third quarter. Catherine Cranmer, who averages 6.8 points, added 14 as he was able to penetrate the zone and get into the lane. Southwestern’s constant pounding of the ball inside led to it making 26 of 53 floor shots and when it missed it was fouled, sinking 19 of 22 at the line.
Southwestern’s depth advantage told in the bench points as the Builder reserves tallied 31 to just 11 for Mac.
Mac’s Bailey Brown closed her career with 11 points and went over the 1,500-point mark, finishing with 1,509. tying her for second on the all-time Mac list. She and Bruner are definitely going to be missed along with seniors Georgia Smart, Sunny Smart, Megan Acklin and Whitney Jefferson.
Mac (64) — Bruner 28, G. Smart 2, Battle 10, Brown 11, S. Smart 2, Kelly 6, Allen 5.
SW (74) — Taylor 6, Reichenberger 9, Miller 8, Cranmer 14, Demel 6, Parker 5, Bleumer 8, Lovell 16, Van Giesen 2.