McPherson College’s men were sailing right along in their home basketball opener on Wednesday, leading Manhattan Christian College 61-49 with 8 minutes to go.
The Bulldogs had maintained a double-digit lead throughout as they were trying to overcome three starters dressed in street clothes due to injury, not to mention losing another starter to a sprained ankle just 5 minutes into the game.
But in a scene reminiscent of so many games last year, the Bulldogs got stuck in an offensive drought and couldn’t get out. The Thunder roared back to take a 71-68 decision as they finished the game on a 20-7 run.
“First off, you’ve got to give credit to Manhattan Christian,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, who refused to use his team being injury-depleted as an excuse. “They never quit. They had lost three straight games coming in here... I thought they played very well down the stretch.”
Mac lost starting big man Grant Munsen to an ankle injury 5 minutes into the game, yet sped to a 21-8 lead. After giving up 9 straight points as they got stuck on 21, the Bulldogs stretched it back out to 36-25 at the break.
The lead swelled to 17, 46-29, with 16 minutes left. But Thunder guard Sterling Turner sliced and diced the Bulldog defense, getting into the lane time and again for floaters and short jumpers. He finished with 27 points, 19 of those coming in the second half.
“They shot the ball extremely well in the second half,” Swartzendruber said. “The things we know that are going to be challenges for us were exposed in the second half.”
The game’s turning point came with just over a minute to go. Mac was up 66-65 when it was called for an intentional foul away from the action. Two free throws gave the Thunder a one-point lead and then they scored on the ensuing possession.
Mac had two chances at the end, but good looks at 3-pointers by Aaron Bachura and Grant Raleigh for the time wouldn’t go down.
Bachura had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, even though he’s guard. Freshman Fred Watts Jr. showed promise as he came off the bench for 13 points and 8 rebounds in Munsen’s stead, while Raleigh scored all 11 of his points in the second half. Garrett Owen had 8 assists.
Turner completed a double-double with 10 rebounds to go along with his 27 points. Chelvin Webb scored 14 and Sheldon Williams had 10 after averaging more than 25 in his first three games.
Mac is home Friday and Saturday for the McPherson College Classic. It hosts Haskell at 8 p.m. Friday and Hastings College at 6 on Saturday.
Mac (68) — Munsen 2, Gurley 9, Owen 5, Bachura 17, Raleigh 11, Ellison 3, Parker 5, Wolters 3, Watts 13.
Manhattan Christian (71) — Larue 4, Henry 7, Webb 14, Turner 27, Williams 10, Dobbins 2, Lenette 7.