With three of the top teams in the KCAC next on their schedule, McPherson College’s women could ill afford to look past the last-place Bethel Threshers here Wednesday.
But they nearly did.
Kristina Battle’s basket with a half-minute left for the Bulldogs forced overtime, then Cami Richardson took over by scoring 7 points in the extra session as Mac was able to exhale with a 72-68 escape to stay in playoff contention.
The Bulldogs are now 7-8 in the KCAC, but go to Sterling on Saturday, then have powerhouses Tabor and Friends on the docket next week. Friends leads the KCAC by two games after knocking off Tabor on Wednesday.
“It’s really nice to win a game when you haven’t played your best basketball,” said Mac coach Gordon Reimer, whose team had numerous healthy leads only to see Bethel charge in the fourth quarter to make the Bulldogs uncomfortable. “I was really proud we held some composure when we needed to in overtime.”
Mac appeared to be well on its way early as it doubled the Threshers 18-9 in the first quarter, but Bethel played perhaps its best quarter of the year to take a 30-26 lead into the break.
It was the Bulldogs’ turn to have a big quarter in the third with an 18-11 run, but back came Bethel as Mac’s free throw shooting throughout the night kept the Threshers in it. The Bulldogs were an unsightly 15 of 34 at the line.
Richardson stepped up big in the OT though after she had struggled in regulation. Her 3-pointer got the ball rolling and the Bulldogs never trailed.
Brooklyn Coe kept Mac afloat in the first half with 11 points and finished with a game-high 18. Victoria Gonzalez was immense off the bench with 15 points, making 5 of 6 3-pointers. Richardson had yet another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while also dishing off for 5 assists. Battle scored 12 and added 4 assists.
Karlie Schroeder led Bethel with 17.
“Give Bethel credit, they played very hard,” Reimer said.
Mac, which is back over .500 overall at 12-11, will try to salvage a series split at Sterling on Saturday as the Warriors were a 61-45 winner in the first meeting.
Mac (72) — Holt 6, Zimmerman 2, Battle 12, Coe 18, Richardson 15, Gonzalez 15, Racette 4.
Bethel (68) — McKinney 10, Johnson 9, Schroeder 17, Schmeidler 13, Sumpter 3, Gerlach 7, Carbonell 6, Schunn 3.
• MAC MEN 77, BETHEL 64 — The Bulldogs led nearly the entire way as they continued their excellent play since the halfway point of the conference schedule.
After suffering through a 1-10 first half, Mac is now 3-1 the second time around — the only loss by one point.
Defense was the key as the Bulldogs were terrific in the first half in building a 33-25 lead.
The offense then took over in the second half with a 44-point salvo. Mac was 16 of 19 at the line after the break, 23 of 27 for the game.
“I thought, honestly, we missed a lot of easy shots, open shots that we should have really blown this game open,” Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said. “The second half, I just thought we wanted it more. We played really hard. I’m proud of the way we battled and made Bethel work hard for every shot.”
Aaron Bachura scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half to lead Mac, while rapidly improving point guard Grant Raleigh added 18 as he’s becoming more of an offensive factor. Chris Crook came off the bench for 11 as the Bulldog reserves outscored Bethel’s 27-4. Thomas Butler had a nice 8-point, 7-rebound game in a reserve role.
Deven Goodwin’s 23 points led Bethel.
Mac is now 10-13 overall and goes to Sterling on Saturday. The Warriors were an 88-78 winner in the first matchup.
Mac (77) — Gurley 4, Rowell 2, Henson 2, Bachura 24, Raleigh 18, Crook 11, Windholz 2, Munsey 6, Butler 8.
Bethel (64) — Robinson 6, Miller 7, Goodwin 23, Banister 12, Mitchell 12, Marshall 4.