At what point do we stop calling these “upsets?”
The giant-killing McPherson College men’s basketball team continues to cause nightmares for the upper echelon of the KCAC.
This time it was Kansas Wesleyan that felt the wrath of the Bulldogs, who cranked it up offensively in the second half to lead by as many as 19 points before finishing with an 87-72 victory on Senior Night at the Sport Center.
The unexpected loss was a momentum-killer for the Coyotes — who had won six games in a row — as they would have had sole possession of second place in the conference and drops them two games back of KCAC leader Southwestern.
And just like Tabor, Friends and York College learned recently— at a time they were in the KCAC’s top rung — this is a Bulldog team that has improved by light-years.
“I’m just so proud of our team, obviously,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose Bulldogs are now ninth out of 12 in the KCAC after being in the basement much of the year. “It’s disappointing we won’t be in the tournament, but it’s exciting for the future.”
Mac is now 6-14 in the KCAC (after being 1-10 at the halfway point) and 9-19 overall after being 1-13 after 14 games. And it’s doing it with a starting lineup that includes two freshmen and two sophomores.
But the other player, senior Aaron Bachura, celebrated Senior Night in style.
Bachura, who has been on a raging offensive tear, rained down 7 3-pointers and scored 31 points. His 3-pointer at the 16:25 mark gave Mac a 5-4 lead and amazingly it never gave it up the rest of the way. His steal and score just before the halftime buzzer pushed the lead to 42-33 and he keyed a 12-2 run to start the second half with a couple of 3s.
“Aaron is having just a phenomenal finish to his senior year,” Swartzendruber said. “Aaron was tremendous tonight. It’s been fun to watch. Not only is our team playing well down the stretch, but Aaron has played well down the stretch.”
Mac, which for so many games couldn’t even reach 40-percent shooting from the field, blazed away for 57 percent in winning its fourth straight game before the home crowd. “Our shot selection and ball movement is just so much better now,” Swartzendruber said.
Fred Watts, who has to be in the running for KCAC Freshman of the Year, was immense with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Another freshman, Jeffrey Oxford, just missed a double-double with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Sophomore Garrett Owen directed the offense and dished out 10 assists.
“Our younger guys are just playing so well,” Swartzendruber said. “They’re gaining confidence every game.”
Darius Hammond came off the bench to score 16 to lead the Coyotes. KW had entered the night allowing only 70 points a game.
Mac plays its final home game on Wednesday as Saint Mary comes to town. The Spires, Kansas Wesleyan, Friends and Oklahoma Wesleyan are all tied for second place at 13-7 in conference play.
Mac (87) — Munsen 8, Watts 19, Owen 7, Bachura 31, Oxford 16, Parker III 1, Barideaux 5.
KW (72) — Rammelt 11, Gandy 10, Allen 4, Leach 2, Fulton 9, Hammond 16, Carter 8, Kraemer 10, Cross 2.
• MAC WOMEN 60, KW 48 — When Gordon Reimer was the head coach at Kansas Wesleyan, he had tremendous success — including a couple of trips to the national tournament.
Since he has taken over at Mac, one problem has been Kansas Wesleyan — he has never defeated the Coyotes.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 22-9 first-quarter lead and didn’t trail the final 35 minutes as they kept the margin at double digits most of the way.
“They’ve had our number,” said Reimer, who once won 31 games in a season at KW. “It was about time.”
It was a key win for the Bulldogs as they continue to hang on to the eighth and final spot in the KCAC playoffs. They are 10-10 in the conference, two games up on Ottawa. However, the Braves have to play at KCAC-leading Friends on Wednesday, while Mac has fourth-place Saint Mary at the Sport Center. A Mac win or Ottawa loss and the Bulldogs are in.
Sonerka White led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Cami Richardson scored 11 and Brooke Racette had 10. Courtney Heinen led KW with 17.
“We’d had a couple of really good days of practice and the girls were really focused in on what we wanted to do defensively,” said Reimer, whose team held KW to a ghastly 25 percent from the field, 14 of 56. “They can put up a lot of points. That was really a key.”
White, who slumped at midseason for several games, is finishing with a flourish as she has strung together a passel of impressive games.
“She has just become a team player and has bought in to everything we want to do,” Reimer said as she also had 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Richardson added 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as she continues to be one of the KCAC’s most versatile players.
With the win, Mac moved back over the .500 mark at 14-13 with two games left to play.
Mac (60) — White 16, Coe 9, Racette 10, Richardson 11, Holt 2, Olvera 6, Zimmerman 3, Roberts 3.
KW (48) — Frazier 2, G. Miller 8, Heinen 17, B. Lewis 2, Mortensen 12, Herman 5, V. Lewis 2.