It appears the McPherson College men’s “drive for five” is back on.
The Bulldogs, who lost six of their first eight KCAC games to fall dangerously close to the eight-team cutline to make the playoffs, continued their recent resurgence here Wednesday by shutting down prolific-scoring Saint Mary 73-65, which somewhat stalled the Spires’ hopes of a regular-season title repeat.
The Bulldogs are now 5-6 in the KCAC after their third win in a row, while Saint Mary fell to 7-4 and two games back of tri-leaders Sterling, Friends and Bethany. Mac, of course, is attempting to qualify for the NAIA National Tournament for an unprecedented fifth year in a row, doing it last year by winning the postseason tournament after finishing in eighth place during the regular season.
After the teams played to a 29-all first-half tie, the Bulldogs matched that 29 number in the first 10 minutes of the second half alone as their best stretch of basketball of the season propelled them to a 58-44 lead. That proved to be enough of a cushion, though the Spires did get as close as four late.
“We’re playing better,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team finally pushed back over the .500 mark overall at 12-11. “We’re playing a lot better defensively.”
The Bulldogs’ defensive stopper Brian Johnson “held” Saint Mary star Grant Greenberg to 22 points, but not many teams have done that since he averages nearly 28.
“He did have 22, but I thought he had to earn them,” Swartzendruber said. “If you look there (at the stat sheet), he was 7 of 17 from the floor. I’m pleased.”
Greenberg also made just one trey, having to make 7 of 8 free throws just to get to 22 points. Mac held Saint Mary to just 23 of 64 from the field, just 4 of 18 from 3-point after it made 14 of 28 bombs against the Bulldogs in the first meeting in Leavenworth.
Mac’s Joey Powers powered his way to 20 points, as he had his way inside. He made 10 of 17 floor shots and also pulled down six rebounds.
Brian Johnson scored 14 and had five assists, Samson Shivers added 13 points and Devirous Johnson added to his nation-leading double-double count after scoring 10 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
This was a huge win for Mac since it goes on the road the next two games against Sterling and Friends, two of the KCAC’s tri-leaders along with Bethany. The Sterling game is set for 5 p.m. Saturday.
Mac (73) — Powers 20, D. Johnson 10, B. Johnson 14, Shivers 13, Berry 9, Grant 5, DeRoo 2.
Saint Mary (65) — Roaf 2, Dowdy 12, Young 3, Williams 13, Greenberg 22, Snell 2, Long 2, Hicks 9.