Aaron Bachura (Wilsey, Kan., Council Grove HS) scored a game-high 25 points to lead six McPherson College men's basketball players in double figures as the Bulldogs topped Bethel College, 105-99, Saturday night at the Sport Center to register their first Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) win of the year.
The Threshers (5-12, 3-7 KCAC) took an early 5-1 lead in the first 90 seconds before Bachura drained the first of his six 3-pointers in the game. The Bulldogs (4-14, 1-9 KCAC) grabbed their first lead of the game at the 14:00 mark on another Bachura basket. The teams traded the lead back-and-forth over the next two minutes before McPherson went on its first sustained rally - a 7-0 stretch that turned a 19-19 tie in to a 26-19 Bulldog lead.
Bethel responded with a 10-1 run behind threes from David Harris and Sam Morgan to move back in front by a 29-27 score with 8:00 remaining in the half. After trading baskets, McPherson moved back in front on a Taylor Ellison (Tulsa, Okla., Memorial HS) 3-pointer and a Louis Parker III (Midwest City, Okla., Midwest City HS) put-back.
The Threshers were able to reel the Bulldogs back in, though, taking a 43-41 lead on a Terrell Marshall basket at the 4:00 mark. Bachura responded with back-to-back threes to give McPherson a four-point lead. Bethel rallied once again, retaking the lead with just 35 seconds to play on a basket by Joe Rushing. Parker hit a shot just before the halftime buzzer sounded, though, to send the Bulldogs into the locker room with a 53-52 lead.
Bethel scored nine of the first 13 points to open the second half, turning the one-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead just over three minutes into the period.
The lead held until the 11:39 mark when Grant Munsen (Manhattan, Kan., Manhattan HS) put back a Parker miss in the midst of an 8-0 run that eventually gave McPherson a 73-69 lead with 10:50 to play. The Bulldogs would not relinquish the lead, eventually building it to 10 points on another Parker basket with 6:21 to play.
The Threshers made a late rally, cutting the lead to just two at 101-99 with 25 seconds to play when Bannister drained an off-balance 3-pointer. The Bulldogs were able to connect on four of six free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Both teams shot exceptionally well from the field with Bethel topping 60 percent (37-of-61; 60.7 percent) and McPherson landing at 53.0 percent (35-of-66). The Bulldogs finished 10-of-19 from behind the arc, while the Threshers were an even 7-of-14. Both teams also shot - and made - a fair number of free throws. McPherson was 25-of-37, while Bethel was 18-of-23.
The Bulldogs dominated the battle on the boards, holding a 39-23 edge in total rebounds. McPherson also had a 15-2 advantage on the offensive glass.
Bachura finished 8-of-15 from the field - including 6-of-12 from 3-point range - and moved ahead of Matt Richardson into 20th place on McPherson's all-time scoring chart.
Frederick Watts (Houston, Texas, Channelview HS) recorded a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Lual Magot (Tucson, Ariz., Tohono O'odham CC) - in his McPherson debut - nearly had one of his own with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Garrett Owen (Woodward, Okla., Woodward HS) added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Grant Raleigh (Hesston, Kan., Hesston HS) had 13 points, six boards and four assists. Parker was the final Bulldog in double figures, matching Raleigh with 13 points.
Bannister was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers and 4-of-5 at the line for a team-high 24 points for Bethel. Rushing added 20 points and six assists, while Marshall and Dakota Foster finished with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
"It feels great to get a win," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "I'm proud of our guys for finishing a game. We have been close so many times this season. Tonight, once we got the lead, we didn't let it go. The addition of Lual certainly helped. Hopefully, tonight is the first of many as we make the turn in the league schedule."
The Bulldogs wrap up the first half of the KCAC slate on Jan. 10 with a trip to the University of Saint Mary. Tipoff from the Ryan Sports Center in Leavenworth is slated for 8 p.m. The Spires (8-8, 6-4 KCAC) lost 83-66 at York on Saturday.