NORTH NEWTON — The sad-sack Bethel Threshers are sad no more.
A year after an ignominious 0-27 season that included several embarrassing and overwhelming losses, the Threshers are now a team nobody wants to play.
McPherson College found that out Saturday night.
Bethel improved to 1-1 in the KCAC and 7-6 overall with a 78-70 victory over the Bulldogs, who were coming off an emotionally uplifting road victory over nationally ranked Bethany but couldn’t capitalize on the momentum.
This was the Threshers’ game basically from start to finish. Kent Packard’s 3-pointer five minutes into the game gave Bethel a 13-10 lead and it would never give it up the rest of the night. It seemed to win every 50-50 ball and simply played hard and to its full potential.
The Bulldogs turned Packard into an All-American in the first half. Averaging only 5 points a game, Packard made 7 of 7 first-half shots for 16 points, as Bethel took a 38-32 lead, punctuated by Jordan Huber’s crazy, off-balanced shot at the first-half buzzer despite having a Bulldog defender draped all over him.
Bethel All-American candidate Adam Arciniega took over in the second half, scoring 11 of his 15 points, which was 10 under his average as Mac’s Darius Hill guarded him well most of the night.
“You talk about a complete opposite game from Thursday night, Bethel was willing to run the shot clock down, take 20 to 25 seconds off the shot clock and then they would break us down,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team is 1-1 in the KCAC and 4-7 overall. “They made big shots. Kent Packard, I think, is only averaging a few points a game, and he was unconscious in the first half. Adam Arciniega made a couple of big baskets late, but for the most part we did a good job on him.”
Mac was down as many as 11 in the second half as Jenson Kingsley made three straight 3-pointers, but the Bulldogs were able to get as close as three late, only to fail to get stops.
Hill led the Bulldogs with 15 points, while Chris Crook scored 13, T.J. Grant added 11 and DeAndre Henson scored 10. Kingsley and Jacob Miller tallied 13 and 11, respectively, to back Packard (16) and Arciniega (15). Bethel blistered the nets for 32 of 58 from the field.
The Bulldogs are home Thursday to take on Kansas Wesleyan, then have Tabor here Saturday.
Mac (70) — Beeler 8, Hill 15, Henson 10, Grant 11, Crook 13, Bachura 5, Martinez 6, Bevan 2.
Bethel (78) — Alford 8, Huber 7, Kingsley 13, Arcniega 15, Packard 16, Hill 6, Long 2, Miller 11.
• BETHEL WOMEN 69, MAC 64 — McPherson College’s women may have to take a refresher course in Ballhandling 101.
The Bulldogs had another horrendous night handling the basketball with 27 turnovers, including six players with four or more. It was a game coach Gordon Reimer thought his team could win if it had taken care of the round sphere as the Bulldogs are now 1-1 in the KCAC and 2-10 overall.
“It’s still the turnover situation, it’s plagued us all year long,” Reimer said. “Until we solve that, we’re going to struggle. I feel we can be a really good team if we just quit turning the ball over. It’s not just one person, it’s a team effort.”
Mac led by as many as 13 in the first half, but Bethel thundered back by closing out the half on a 16-3 run for a 32-32 tie. The Bulldogs led by as many as five with 10 minutes to go, but some atrocious foul shooting did them in down the stretch as they were just 8 of 19 in the second half after making 10 of 12 in the first half.
Bailey Brown and Sunny Smart continue to play their hearts out. Brown scored 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while Smart had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Both players are under 5-7, so their rebounding numbers continue to be phenomenal. Georgia Smart gave Mac some good minutes off the bench with eight points and 11 rebounds.
Lauren Ulrich scored 19 and came up with seven of Bethel’s 20 steals as the Bulldogs looked woefully lost as to how to handle a press.
Mac is home Thursday to play Reimer’s old team, Kansas Wesleyan.
Mac (64) — Atkins 6, Brown 23, S. Smart 11, Jefferson 1, Abra 9, G. Smart 8, Acklin 6.
Bethel (69) — Harpe 10, Durant 15, Ebenkamp 6, Zerger 11, Gerlach 2, Tschetter 2, Scott 4, Ulrich 19.