McPherson College’s Tim Swartzendruber could probably coach another 20 years and not experience a basketball loss as difficult to swallow as Thursday’s 81-77 overtime setback to Sterling College in a crucial KCAC showdown at the Sport Center.
The Bulldogs literally let one get away to the Warriors, who were down by five points with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, only to later stun Mac by forcing the game into overtime on a 3-point buzzer beater by Darius Alexander.
With the obvious momentum, the Warriors rushed past Mac in the OT to hand the Bulldogs their second straight heart-stopping loss after opening conference play with a victory.
“We had the game won,” said Swartzendruber, whose Bulldogs are now 7-6 overall but two games back of KCAC co-leaders Friends and Bethany. “That’s the thing that’s disappointing. We just couldn’t finish it. We couldn’t make the plays down the stretch we needed to. Free throws — I don’t even know what to say.”
While there were 14 total charity misses on Mac’s end, the most magnified came with 7.2 seconds left in regulation and the Bulldogs up 62-60 as Sterling’s Eddie Adesodun had just made a 3-pointer to cut into the five-point lead. Normally reliable senior Samon Shivers, an 80-percent foul shooter who has come through so many times with big shots, had made the first free throw to put Mac up 63-60. But he missed the second (his only miss of the night as he was 6 of 7) and the Warriors rebounded, rushed the ball up the floor and Alexander buried a contested 25-foot dagger with 0.8 seconds left to tie the game.
That energized the Warriors and deflated the Bulldogs, who surrendered three 3-pointers in the overtime and were really never in it except briefly.
“Give Sterling credit,” Swartzendruber said. “Alexander buried a tough shot there at the end of the game... they refused to lose.”
Shivers had a great game for Mac with 21 points, making some difficult and clutch 3-pointers. Mac actually had trailed 57-51 with 3:37 to go when Shivers and T.J. Grant led a 12-3 run that seemingly had pulled out what would have been a crucial KCAC win.
Grant scored 18 points off the bench, Devirous Johnson had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Joey Powers, who didn’t take a shot in the first half, scored 11 after the break and also pulled down 11 rebounds. Brian Johnson dished off for seven assists and had five rebounds, but was just 2 of 11 from the foul line.
Adesodun led Sterling with 19 points, while Alexander and Braden Thompson scored 15 apiece. Buhler grad Brandon Givens scored 14, 13 of those in the second half when the Warriors were making their surge.
It doesn’t get any easier for Mac Saturday when KCAC co-leader Friends comes to town for a 7 p.m. clash. It’s Community Appreciation Night and admission will be FREE.
Mac (77) — Powers 11, D. Johnson 12, Shivers 21, B. Johnson 6, Lakin 5, Grant 18, Woods 2, Bevan 2.
Sterling (81) — Thompson 15, Starks 7, Adesodun 19, Alexander 15, Green 7, Givens 14, Smith 4.