Just call it an early birthday present.
Today is McPherson College men’s basketball coach Tim Swartzendruber’s birthday, but his team gave him his present a day early when it led from start to finish Wednesday against cross-town rival Central Christian College for an 80-65 victory, avenging last year’s loss on the Bulldogs’ home floor.
Mac, which had a raucous following as its side of the bleachers was full, has winged away to a 4-0 start and this was its most impressive victory to date because it came against a quality opponent.
“Coming into the game we felt the big keys were going to be transition defense and rebounding,” Swartzendruber said. “Those are the things they are really good at. They got some transition baskets on us, but overall I didn’t think they were able to just control the game that way. And we outrebounded them. So I thought that was really positive.”
Mac sped to a 21-7 lead before CCC made its anticipated run to draw within 23-20. However, Chris Crook caught fire and vaulted the Bulldogs to a 41-32 lead at recess as he came off the bench for 18 first-half points.
Mac broadened the lead to as many as 23 and while the Tigers made a couple of runs, they never did put any serious pressure on the Bulldogs.
Crook, in his new role as offensive firestarter off the bench, finished with 26 points. DeAndre Henson scored 14 and did a scotch-tape job on CCC star Michael Gholston, holding him to 9. Aaron Bachura added 11 points and Reed Rowell was chairman of the boards with 14 huge rebounds. Muscular Thomas Butler snagged 10 as Mac had 48 to the Tigers’ 44.
Sam Clayborn led the Tigers with 13 points. Kendric Warren had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Ernest Burton provided 11 off the bench.
CCC coach Tony Romero was left shaking his head as it’s the first time he’s been part of a 1-3 start.
“They were on a mission and we weren’t,” Romero said. “I didn’t think we had a good practice yesterday and it carried over. For whatever reason, our experience (nearly all of the top players are back) isn’t clicking right now. For us, other than Friends, our whole season we’ve let teams get comfortable. Our starts are so bad right now. We knew Crook was due for a good game and he played well. This is a better Mac team. They’re tough and are going to do well. We’ve got to do some searching mentally. We’ve got to get it figured out. I think the problem is everybody told us we were supposed to be good. We’ve lost our urgency. We’ve got to find it.”
Mac heads out to play the Air Force Academy on Friday, an exhibition game against an NCAA Division I school. Central is home for its Classic For Christ, playing Grace University on Friday and Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday.
Mac (80) — Butler 8, Rowell 8, Henson 14, Bachura 11, Crook 26, Owen 5, Windholz 3, Gurley 5.
Central (65) — Warren 12, Osagie 9, Clayborn 13, Nwosuh 4, Gholston 9, Gaxiola 3, Kuminga 4, Burton 11.