Nobody wanted to leave.
Nearly 30 minutes after the McPherson College men upset county rival Bethany College 107-93 in a wild track meet Thursday night, Bulldog players, coaches and fans were still reveling in their Senior Night exploits.
It was as wild a game as there’s been at the Sport Center, as Mac sheared the defenseless Swedes for 62 second-half points to pull away after the Bulldogs had led 45-44 at the half, a lead achieved when D’onte Woods drained a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs are now 7-10 in the KCAC and tied with Southwestern for the No. 7 playoff position, which will be broken Saturday when the teams meet in Winfield. Friends took over the KCAC lead Thursday by routing Sterling 97-76 and nobody wants to play the Falcons.
For Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, it was one of the really feel-good nights of the year. The Bulldogs, now 14-15 overall, were down as many as nine points in the first half before closing on a rush, then exploded to start the second half, pushing the lead to as many as 19 behind Woods, T.J. Grant and Samson Shivers.
Bethany wouldn’t be Bethany without making a run behind the wondrous Idris IbnIdris but the Swedes’ defense was so porous it didn’t matter how many points they scored.
“We have been right there with so many of the good teams in the conference,” said Swartzendruber, whose Bulldogs could easily be 10-7 given all the close games they have lost. “It got a little hairy there in the last couple of minutes. We did a great job and stuck with our game plan. We stayed focused the whole way. Obviously it’s a great win for us.”
The numbers were simply stunning. Grant scored 25 of his 27 points after the break and also dished off for nine assists. Shivers, who just eclipsed the all-time Mac scoring record last week, added 26 and Woods, who got the start on Senior Night and averages just 3.0 points a game, scored 24, while soaring for six rebounds and coming up with four steals.
“What a special night for him (Woods),” Swartzendruber said. “D’onte has been playing really well here down the stretch. There’s nobody in our program who has worked any harder. He’s been here for five years and I’m so proud of him. It’s exciting to see him play well here at the end. Obviously this is the time of the year you want to be playing your best basketball.”
And it wouldn’t be a Bulldog game without a Devirous Johnson double-double, as he had 10 points and 12 rebounds — his 21st double-double of the year.
Mac finished 35 of 67 from the field and 26 of 36 from the line, but the big stat was a 40-27 rebounding advantage even though the Swedes had much more size.
“We work on rebounding all the time,” Swartzendruber said. “We’re second or third in the conference in rebounding. We did a great job on the glass.”
IbnIdris, who played only 10 minutes in the first half because of fouls, scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half. Vincent Roybal tallied 18 points before sidelined with a concussion. Jordan Bieberle added 17, Kirby Hawkins scored 12 off the bench and Larry McLin scored 11.
Bethany coach Clair Oleen was searching for answers after his team lost its fourth game in the last five outings after being in the KCAC lead. The Swedes are 11-6 in the KCAC, 18-10 overall.
“The big thing was that we didn’t rebound,” Oleen said. “At halftime they had 13 second-chance points. They had eight offensive rebounds. They had 22 rebounds to our 13 and it didn’t change much in the second half. We have always taken great pride in our defense through the years, we’ve always been one of the top teams in field-goal percentage. But right now we’re not a good defensive team and that’s got to change.”
The Swedes play Saturday at Bethel.
Mac (107) —Woods 24, D. Johnson 10, DeRoo 5, Shivers 26, Grant 27, Berry 2, Henson 5, B. Johnson 8.
Bethany (93) — Roybal 18, McLin 11, IbnIdris 26, Bieberle 17, Abad 5, Hawkins 12, Loul 4.