The McPherson College men's basketball team saw a 17-point second half lead slip away Wednesday evening in a 71-68 season-opening loss to Manhattan Christian College at the Sport Center.
The Bulldogs (0-1) jumped out to a 21-8 lead near the midway point of the first half, boosted by eight straight points from Aaron Bachura to open the game and capped by a Parkes Wolters 3-pointer.
The Thunder (1-2) responded with a 9-0 run over the a five-minute stretch to cut the McPherson lead to four. A Careino Gurley layup with 5:17 to play in the half halted the run and sent the Bulldogs on a 15-6 run that put pushed the lead out to 13 points. Sterling Turner scored a fastbreak lineup as the half drew to a close to leave McPherson with a 36-25 advantage as the teams headed to the locker rooms for halftime.
McPherson went on a 10-4 run to open the second half to extend its lead to 17 points at 46-29 with 16:04 to play on a jumper by Grant Raleigh.
A Chelvin Webb layup and back-to-back 3-pointers by Turner cut the lead back to single digits for the first time in the second half at the 14:22 mark. A Frederick Watts bucket with 8:34 to play put McPherson up 12 at 61-49, but Manhattan Christian went on a 14-1 run over the next 3:21 to completely erase the deficit on a Turner 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs retook the lead on back-to-back baskets by Raleigh and Louis Parker III, but Turner responded with a steal and a fastbreak layup to make it a 1-point game. After the Bulldogs were whistled for an intentional foul with 1:15 to play, Darien Henry hit both free throws to put MCC back in front, then extend the lead to three with a basket on the ensuing possession.
Raleigh countered with a basket to make it a one-point game with 42 seconds to play. The Bulldogs forced a missed shot on defense, but gave the ball right back as Turner stole the ball from Raleigh and found Webb, who extended the Thunder lead to three.
Following a timeout, McPherson had a couple of chances to tie the score in the final few seconds by 3-point attempts by Raleigh and Bachura both missed the mark.
Turner led all players with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Webb added 14 points and Sheldon Williams had 10, while Henry and Deshon Lenette chipped in with seven points apiece.
Bachura had a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double to lead the Bulldogs. Watts added 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with eight boards in his McPherson debut, while Raleigh had 11 points.
Garrett Owen had five points and a game-high eight assists. Grant Munsen had two points and two rebounds in the first five minutes of the game before leaving the game after landing awkwardly following a layup.
The Bulldogs held a slim 41-40 advantage on the boards.
Manhattan Christian shot 51.6 percent (16-of-31) in the second half compared to just 40 percent (14-of-35) for McPherson.
The Thunder were also more effective at getting to the line, finishing 13-of-19 at the charity stripe. The Bulldogs were just 6-of-9.
"You have to give credit to Manhattan Christian," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "They never quit. They shot the ball extremely well in the second half. There are things that we know are going to be challenges for us that were exposed in the second half. We won the rebounding battle, but it wasn't a great performance on the boards. That, and we weren't able to keep their guards out of the lane. We shot the ball really well in spurts, but couldn't get the ball to fall down the stretch. You just have to bounce back."
"We need to be smarter when we have the ball," added Swartzendruber. "We had the ball and the lead for a lot of the game, but took a number of questionable shots. It hurt us a little bit when Munsen went out of the game, leaving us short a man in the post. We were forced to play Wolters and Parker at the 4 spot and that's really not their spot. When it comes down to it, though, you need to make shots and stop people."
Next up for McPherson is this weekend's McPherson Classic. The Bulldogs will face Haskell Indian Nations University at 8 p.m. Friday night before turning around to challenge Hastings College at 6 p.m. Saturday evening.