McPherson College men’s basketball coach Tim Swartzendruber and Central Christian College men’s basketball coach Tony Romero have enjoyed remarkable success at their respective schools.
All Swartzendruber has done in his six previous years is guide four teams to the national tournament and win a KCAC championship. Romero just reached the 100-victory mark at Central as he’s in the infant stages of his sixth year.
That’s why when their teams get together for their once-a-year meeting, they produce dramatic and wildly entertaining games.
This year’s showdown is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at what is expected to be a jam-packed Alexander Arena on the south side of town. A women’s game starts the action at 6.
Both games will be aired on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Nick Gosnell on the call.
The Bulldogs are off to a 3-1 start, their only loss coming in overtime to an undefeated Northern New Mexico team that also owns a victory over expected top KCAC contender Saint Mary. Mac led that game by 12 points, but endured an ice-cold stretch midway through the second half.
The Tigers are 2-1, unexpectedly losing their last game 85-76 to Hillsdale Baptist.
Both coaches look forward to this game and have great admiration for each other.
“Central will be the best team we have faced thus far,” said Swartzendruber, whose team has yet to play at home this season. “From what I've heard and seen, this may be the best team Tony has had. They are extremely athletic. They always play well in their gym. I think the key for us will be to keep our composure in a hostile environment and play solid defensively.”
Romero tosses similar bouquets Swartzendruber’s way.
“McPherson is playing pretty well right now. Tim has done a good job with a new group of guys getting them to play in his system,” Romero said. “(Darius) Hill and (T.J.) Grant are two very good players that are playing at a high level. For us, we are going to have to do a good job taking care of the basketball and handling their pressure. We also will need to limit their transition game. It’s always a fun-and-exciting game for the community of McPherson.”
Even though the games have been uber-competitive down through the years, the Bulldogs have won 21 of the 23 meetings as there were several years when the teams played twice. They have produced some high-level basketball and down-to-the buzzer endings.
• WOMEN’S TEAMS STRUGGLING — Central and Mac have combined for just one win in nine games, that by the Lady Tigers.
CCC is 1-4 as it’s implemented the Grinnell College style of play, trying to get off a shot within about 12 seconds. The Lady Tigers had a game this year where they launched a staggering 59 3-pointers. That style of play is one reason teams are averaging an even 100 points against them.
Offense has been the Bulldogs’ problem during an 0-4 start. They have struggled to put the ball in the basket as they average only 51 points a game, though they at times have played well defensively.
Mac has a 20-3 record against the Lady Tigers in the all-time series.