Bulldogs hope to conjure up another magical run

By Steve Sell
February 26, 2014
McPherson College Sports Information

They can’t really do it again, can they?

Don’t bet against it.

McPherson College’s men’s basketball team goes into Thursday’s KCAC Postseason Tournament quarterfinal game at Sterling as the No. 7 seed.

It was a year ago Mac entered the tourney as the No. 8 and last seed, squeaking into the field on the final night of the regular season.

What followed, of course, was the most unlikely and improbable playoff run in the history of the event. Mac went on the road to stun KCAC regular-season champion Saint Mary in overtime, then knocked off Friends on Kasey Miller’s buzzer-beater in the semifinals before finishing the upset hat trick by defeating Sterling in the title game at Hartman Arena. That made it four straight years the Bulldogs had qualified for the NAIA National Tournament.

The Bulldogs hope to write their sequel, starting with Sterling. Game time is 7 p.m., with 96.7 KBBE FM coverage starting at 6:45.

“Sterling is a very good team and it is a tough place to play” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team won three of its last four to get to .500 for the year at 15-15. “I believe we are playing our best basketball of the season. I like the focus of our team and the team effort we are getting.”

The Bulldogs probably match up better with Sterling than any of the other top seeds. They lost in overtime to the Warriors at the Sport Center (after being up five with 12 seconds left to play) and then lost at Sterling on a night they had about their worst-shooting performance of the year.

“I think the big keys for us will be to limit turnovers,” Swartzendruber said. “They are best when they score in transition off mistakes and we must keep their guards from getting hot from the perimeter. They average nearly 30 3's a game, so obviously they will live and die by the 3.  The last time we played at Sterling I thought we played well overall, we just shot so poorly and had numerous unforced errors. I'm excited about the tournament and the challenges we have.”

The Bulldogs knocked off a pair of top-four teams late in the season. A bonus has been the play of D’onte Woods, who has exploded with a string of top-of-the-line performances, including a 24-point game in the upset of Bethany. Point guard T.J. Grant also has come alive, while Samson Shivers and Devirous Johnson has been steady as they come all year. Given the Bulldogs’ history, they have to be considered the toughest out of any of the road teams on Thursday.

If Mac upsets Sterling, it would go on the road Saturday night to take on either Bethany or Ottawa, with tip time 7 p.m.