LINDSBORG — Last weekend in Nebraska, McPherson College’s men’s basketball team failed to score 60 points in either of its two games.
Thursday night in its KCAC opener at Hahn Gym against arch-rival and nationally ranked Bethany College, the Bulldogs bettered that with 68.
In the second half, that is.
The Bulldogs’ amazing second half enabled them to outscore the 24th-ranked Swedes 104-101 in a wildly entertaining game.
“Obviously we’re excited to win,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team is now 4-6 as it snapped a five-game losing streak. “I really believe this team has a chance to be a really good team, but we just haven’t quite clicked yet. And I thought tonight, finally, in the second half a lot of good things happened.”
Bethany played like a national Final Four team in the first half, sprinting past the panting Bulldogs for a 53-36 lead.
But Mac scored the first eight points of the second half and continually chipped away as the Swedes’ seemingly insurmountable lead started to shrink.
Jet-quick point guard T.J. Grant started to get to the Mac basket and a lot of good things happened. While he wasn’t making a lot of baskets, he was getting to the foul line or dishing off for assists.
Mac still trailed by six, 99-93, with 3:12 to go, but the Swedes started to miss some key free throws and took some wild shots. The Bulldogs finally got it tied at 100-all with 1:17 to go.
After the teams swapped one free throw apiece, Mac’s DeAndre Henson buried the game-winning dagger, a 3-pointer from the right side, that gave the Bulldogs the improbable win with 17.9 seconds to go. The Swedes didn’t get off a good shot and the Bulldogs had to feel like they somewhat stole one.
“The style that Bethany plays, they’re going to take quick shots and they’re going to keep runnin’ and gunnin,’ Swartzendruber said. “I knew if we could get a little bit of momentum going, they were going to keep shooting the ball, which they did. Unfortunately it seemed like they hit a lot of big shots, but in the last few minutes they couldn’t make the shots when they needed to.”
There were monster games abound. Darius Hill poured in 31 points and yanked down 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Henson scored 25. Grant added 16, and Page Beeler and Ramon Martinez scored 10 apiece.
Six Swedes hit for double figures — Cody Harris (24), Gary Jones (19), Larry McLin (14), Nathan Coleman (13), Devin Smith (13) and Jonathan Gidson (13). After shooting a blistering 63 percent in the first half, Bethany shot just 40 in the second half to end the game at 50, 35 of 70. It made 11 of 21 from 3-point, but was just 20 of 36 from the foul line.
What also hurt Bethany was the outrageously athletic Harris fouled out with 2:50 to go with his team up by six.
Mac plays Saturday at Bethel, which lost to Saint Mary 81-64 on Thursday. Bethany, now 5-3 overall, goes to Ottawa, which beat Sterling, 71-63.
Mac (104) — Beeler 10, Hill 31, Henson 25, Grant 16, Crook 3, Bachura 5, Berry 2, Parker 2, Martinez 10.
Bethany (101) — Jones 19, McLin 14, Harris 24, Coleman 13, Smith 13, Gidson 13, Robinson 3, Huskey 2.