WICHITA — The McPherson College men's basketball team saw an 11-point second-half lead slip away Saturday as Friends University posted a 68-65 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference win at the Garvey Physical Education Center.
The Falcons (15-10, 11-6 KCAC) jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Toby Baxter and a pair of Jordan Murdock free throws. The Bulldogs (11-15, 5-13 KCAC) rallied for 10 of the next 15 points, led by five from Aaron Bachura, to tie the score at 10 with 12:53 left in the half.
After another basket by Baxter, McPherson rattled off nine in a row over a four-minute stretch to grab a seven-point lead. Friends chipped away at the lead the rest of the half, making it a two-point game with 1:35 remaining when Kyler Steadman sank the free throw to complete a 3-point play.
Bachura missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on the Bulldogs' next trip down the court but was able to cash in with a jumper seconds later after a Baxter turnover. Steadman responded with a basket to again make it a two-point advantage.
Grant Raleigh had an opportunity to extend the lead just before halftime but saw his shot blocked by Kaleb Ratliff.
McPherson shot 42.3 percent (11-of-26) in the first half, compared to just 36.4 percent (8-of-22) for Friends.
The Falcons grabbed a four-point lead early in the second half only to be reeled in by the Bulldogs. Steadman completed another 3-point play with 13:13 remaining in the game to tie the score at 40, but McPherson used a 15-4 run behind 11 points from Bachura to grab an 11-point lead with 8:17 left.
Friends chipped away at the lead, using a 13-3 run over a four-minute span to knot the score at 62 with 2:20 left. The rally was capped by a 3-pointer from Murdock. The Falcons got a pair of stops and added two more hoops by Steadman and Baxter to lead by four as the clock ticked under 1:00.
With 28 seconds left, Careino Gurley forced a turnover and got a basket to cut the lead to two. Toby Baxter responded by draining a pair of free throws. After a McPherson timeout and a Friends foul, Garrett Owen (Woodward, Okla., Woodward HS) hit one of two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Forced to foul to preserve the clock, Bachura picked up his fifth foul and sent Baxter back to the line. The Bulldogs were given one final chance to tie the game after Baxter missed both free throws, but Owen's last-second 3-point attempt missed the mark.
Friends shot a blistering 70.8 percent (17-of-24) from the field in the second half to finish the game at 54.3 percent (25-of-46) overall. The Falcons were also 15-of-20 at the free throw line.
McPherson also shot well in the second half, hitting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field and 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from behind the arc. Overall, the Bulldogs finished the game shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from the field, but were just 50.0 percent (9-of-18) at the line.
McPherson held a slim 29-28 advantage on the boards.
Bachura finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, including four 3-pointers, before fouling out late. He also had four rebounds. DeAndre Henson added 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Thomas Butler added four points and five rebounds off the bench.
Only six Falcons found the scoring column, led by Murdock with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He was also 9-of-11 at the line and pulled down nine rebounds. Steadman added 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal, while Baxter had 15 points, three steals and a rebound. Zach Osborn missed the only shot he took but ended up with six rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in nearly 19 minutes.
"The bottom line is to win close games, you have to make plays," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "You have to make free throws, make open shots and get stops. Give Friends credit. They made the plays to win."
With four games to play, the Bulldogs sit a game and a half game back of Oklahoma Wesleyan (10-14, 7-10 KCAC) for the eighth and final spot in the KCAC tournament pending the result of Monday's make-up game between the Eagles and the Falcons in Bartlesville. McPherson has a pair of home games this week, hosting Saint Mary on Thursday and York on Saturday. Thursday's game tips off at 8 p.m., while Saturday's goes off at 5 p.m. McPherson dropped both initial meetings this season, falling to Saint Mary, 86-84, in Leavenworth on Dec. 13 and to York, 115-103, in Nebraska on Jan. 5.