Newcomer Sonerka White scored a game-high 26 points in her Bulldog debut as the McPherson College women's basketball team picked up a 104-59 season-opening win over Randall University Monday night at the Sport Center.
After a scoreless opening two minutes, Kristina Battle hit a layup to give McPherson (1-0) the early 2-0 lead. A Battle free throw followed by a Maressah Milum basket extended the lead to 5-0 before Randall (0-1) broke through with its first points on an Isabella Bacon jumper over four minutes in. Madi Chalfant added a free throw seconds later to cut the advantage to just two, but the Bulldogs responded with a 9-0 run powered by five points from White and a pair of buckets inside by Brooke Zimmerman.
Bacon ended the rally with a layup at the 2:11 mark, but a layup by White and three McPherson free throws down the stretch gave the Bulldogs a 19-5 lead after a quarter.
The scoring picked up for both teams in the second quarter. White hit consecutive 3-pointers to give McPherson a 30-12 lead and, after a Bacon 3-pointer, Battle rattled off seven straight points to extend the lead to 22 points. The run was halted by a pair of Morgan Fletcher free throws, which the Bulldogs promptly countered as RJ Kuhn hit a layup. Fletcher then drained a three to spark a 9-0 run for the Saints — the last six of which came from Olivia Wells — to slice the McPherson advantage back to 13. McPherson finished the half on a 9-2 run, though, to lead 48-28 at the break.
The teams traded 10-0 runs to start the second half with McPherson leading 58-38 at the midway point of the third quarter. The Bulldogs closed out the frame on a 20-11 run, going 9-of-10 at the free throw line. Danielle Holt and White each had six points during the stretch.
McPherson began to drain threes in the fourth quarter, hitting six en route to a 24-3 run to open the final stanza and hitting the century mark on a 3-pointer by Kuhn with 3:36 to play. Randall closed out the game on a 7-2 run as McPherson College head coach Gordon Reimer dug into his bench.
The Bulldogs shot 43.9 percent (36-of-82) from the field with 12 3-pointers and were 20-of-32 at the line. McPherson also held a 59-42 advantage on the boards.
White finished with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting with three 3-pointers, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. She was also 7-of-9 at the line. Battle added 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting with a team-high four assists and three steals. Holt finished with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double and also had three steals and an assists, while Cami Richardson — last year's KCAC Freshman of the Year - had a solid all-around game with nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Nicole Abunaja hit a trio of 3-pointers to finish with nine points, while Brooke Racette had eight points and three steals and Zimmerman had seven points, seven boards and three assists.
"It'll probably three or four different people every night for us," said Reimer. "There are other people [than White, Battle and Holt] that are capable of hitting double-figures. Brooklyn Coe is capable of going double-figures and Cami is capable of doing that also. We have really good balance this year. ... Once [Abunaja] settles into the college game, she's going to be a really good addition for us."
Randall shot just 29.2 percent (19-of-65) from the field, including 6-of-26 from behind the arc, and committed 33 turnovers. The Saints did, however, hit 15 of 17 free throws.
Fletcher scored 15 points off the bench to lead Randall. Bacon added 14 points and six rebounds, while Wells had 13 points and eight boards. Chalfant had five points and team-high nine rebounds.
McPherson reached the century mark for the first time in nearly two years — a 106-49 win over Central Christian College on Nov. 11, 2015, at the Sport Center.
The 26 points scored by White is the most by a McPherson player since Ashton Bruner scored 28 in the finale of the 2015-2016 season against Southwestern on Feb. 24, 2016.
"With only five newcomers and returning virtually everybody, the core of this team played together all last season, for the most part," added Reimer. "It's easy to fit in a couple of pieces here and there and [the newcomers] have bought in and filled in just perfectly. I feel like we're playing with some leadership and confidence that may have been lacking last season. ... This was a nice one to get started with at the beginning of the year."
The Bulldogs return to the court at 6 p.m. Friday evening when they face (RV) Bellevue University on the first day of the McPherson Classic. McPherson will then face Haskell Indian Nations University at 4 p.m. Saturday. Live stats and video for Friday's game will be available at www.macbulldogs.com/gamecast. Saturday's game will feature live stats only due to coverage of the McPherson College men's soccer team's KCAC Tournament quarterfinal.