The drained look on McPherson College men's basketball coach Tim Swarztendruber's face said it all.
In what has turned into a forgettable season for the Bulldogs, despite the fact they're highly competitive in about every game, it once again was one bad stretch that cost them Saturday, this time 76-66 to Sterling at the Sport Center.
A 12-3 Warrior run in the second half, just when the Bulldogs had closed within two points, provided the impetus for Sterling, which is 7-3 in its last 10 KCAC games after an 0-4 start.
Swartzendruber said he's sounding like a broken record.
"I don't even hardly know what to say anymore," said Swartzendruber, whose team gives max effort but in the end, it all comes down to not making shots. "I think we play hard, but somewhere defensively it's just frustrating that they shoot 52 percent on us… we shoot 36 percent."
Braden Thompson sparked the Warriors' run and finished with 22 points, including 4 of 7 from 3-point. Sterling had been one of the worst teams in KCAC 3-point shooting entering the game, but went 9 of 19, while Mac heaved it from beyond the arc 28 times and made seven, though many of those were wild attempts in the final 2 minutes.
TJ Grant scored 17 points for the Bulldogs, while Chris Crook scored 16. Darius Hill had yet another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but the Mac bench did not score a point in the first half and had only 11 in the game, half of the 22 Sterling received.
Mac is now 4-10 in the KCAC, still a game up on Kansas Wesleyan for the eighth and final playoff spot. Mac is 8-18 overall and has a tough week ahead with road games Thursday at Ottawa and Saturday at Southwestern, both 100-mile-plus trips.
Mac (66) — Hill 14, Bevan 4, Henson 4, Grant 17, Crook 16, Bachura 6, Parker 5.
Sterling (76) — Stacker 6, Thompson 22, Gardner 13, Swank 11, Smith 2, Givens 6, Smith 10, Ray 4, Starks 2.
• STERLING WOMEN 82, MAC 72 — The Bulldogs accumulated one of their highest point totals of the year, but unfortunately also gave up one of their highest totals.
"It's a rough game to talk about because I thought we played with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity," Mac coach Gordon Reimer said. "We shot the ball incredibly well for what we have been shooting all season. I just felt like we had a really good chance to win this game. We just didn't play well enough defensively."
The Bulldogs were on the verge of being blown out on several occasion, but never gave up and cut Sterling's 20-point lead in half by the end.
Once again, the Bulldogs received marvelous performances from Bailey Brown and Sunny Smart, as they accounted for over half of Mac’s points. Brown, who is putting together an All-America-type season, scored 23 points while Smart chipped in with 19 and snared nine rebounds despite giving up a lot of size.
Zatorian Abra flashed some considerable athleticism with 13 points and four steals, but once again the Bulldogs showed they are still a couple of quality players short of hanging with the best in the KCAC.
Smoky Valley graduate Lori Dauer scored 16 of her 22 points in the first half for Sterling and finished the game making 9 of 11 floor shots, while also pulling down 13 rebounds. Sterling dominated the glass with a whopping 46-28 rebounding advantage as Mac didn’t get much post play.
The loss dropped Mac to 3-11 in the KCAC and 4-22 overall. What made matters worse was that Saint Mary — which had entered the night tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Bulldogs — upset Ottawa on Saturday. Mac almost assuredly has to defeat Saint Mary when the teams play during the final week of the season to have any chance to making the postseason tournament.
Mac (72) — G. Smart 2, Abra 13, Brown 23, S. Smart 19, Jefferson 1, Acklin 7, Demerat 7.
Sterling (82) — Faul 2, Brickell 6, Stagner 12, Davis 13, Dauer 22, Greer 5, Santos 6, Strobel 12, Sullen 4.