Did you really expect anything less?
Every time Central Christian College’s men and McPherson College get together on the basketball court it goes down to the wire and it wasn’t any different on Wednesday in the first-ever Mayor’s Cup game played at the legendary Roundhouse before a roaring crowd.
After the Bulldogs had wiped out a 13-point halftime deficit to take a 53-50 lead, the Tigers unleashed a 3-point barrage in the final 5 minutes to overtake Mac 68-60 as the schools wound up splitting the night with a cup going to each school.
It was the Tigers’ fifth win in the last seven meetings in the series and their first win of the season as they are now 1-1. They also dealt the Bulldogs their first loss after three wins.
The Tigers led only 13-12 8 minutes into the game, but they ramped up the defensive pressure to go on a 12-0 run keyed by their bench, which contributed 16 points in the half. The Tigers led by as many as 16 before settling for a 35-22 lead.
But the Bulldogs came out smoking to start the second half with a 23-8 rip and it was game-on from there. Mac vaulted to a 50-43 advantage, only to see the Tigers reel off a 7-0 lick to tie it with 6:19 left.
Andrew Epps and Paul Ard II both drained a pair of 3-pointers in the final 5 minutes as the Tigers closed the game on an 18-7 rush.
"We knew that we were going to get a punch at some point in the game," CCC coach Tony Romero said. "In the first half we did a good job of defending and keeping them out of the paint. We knew Tim (Mac coach Swartzendruber) would have his team ready and he's a great coach. I respect him a lot and respect the program a lot."
The Tigers actually struggled from 3-point for much of the game before Ard and Epps stepped up in the clutch.
"I was so proud of Paul Ard, he had such a bad game shooting it the other night," Romero said. "Steve (Kuminga) made a big play, Andrew made a big play. I'm really happy for our seniors the way they finished that game off. You have no choice but to get better after a game like this."
Kuminga led the balanced Tigers with 12 points, while Ard scored 11, and Jubril Osagie and TJ Williams added 10 apiece.
Chamaje Barideaux came off the bench to lead Mac with 17 and Jeffrey Oxford added 10. The Bulldogs shot just 35 percent, but did improve from 3-point by making 7 of 21.
"I don't know what to say other than we were just awful in the first half," Swartzendruber said. "Our execution was poor and we couldn't finish in the paint. I think you have to give Central credit. They hit big baskets down the stretch. We had the lead and it looked like we had the momentum and they did a nice job coming back."
The Bulldogs were just 8 of 33 in the first half and continued their season-long struggles from 3-point by making only 1 of 8 before warming up after the break. Had it not been for Barideaux’s 9 points off the bench, the Bulldogs would have been buried.
The Tigers turn around and host Manhattan Christian tonight at 8:00 at Alexander Arena, a team Mac defeated to open the season.
The Bulldogs usher in KCAC play on Wednesday hosting Oklahoma Wesleyan. The Eagles were tabbed to win the conference in the recent preseason poll and return three All-KCAC performers.
Central (68) — Kuminga 12, Osagie 10, Williams 10, Epps 6, Ard II 11, Rivera 7, Mitchell 6, Henry 2, Staten 1, Diatta 3.
Mac (60) — Munsen 6, Watts 2, Paige 7, Owen 5, Oxford 10, Barideaux 17, Rivers 3, Magot 6, Hightower 4.