The McPherson College women's basketball team fell back to the .500 mark in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) play with a 54-51 loss to Bethel College Saturday night at the Sport Center.

The Threshers (6-12, 2-8 KCAC) scored the first seven points of the game, but the Bulldogs (9-8, 5-5 KCAC) rallied to cut the deficit to two on a 3-pointer by Brooke Racette (Hutchinson, Kan., Trinity Catholic HS) with 4:02 left in the opening quarter. Bethel pushed the lead back out to six in the closing seconds of the frame before Julie Olvera (Bakersfield, Calif., Bakersfield College) hit a free throw to leave McPherson with an 18-13 deficit headed to the second period.

The Bulldogs chipped away at the Thresher advantage, scoring seven of the first nine points to knot the score at 20-20 on a Kristina Battle (Houston, Texas, Austin HS) basket and foul shot just past the 7:00 mark. The visitors responded with an 8-2 run backed by a pair of Kelsey Potter 3-pointers to take a 28-22 lead with 4:22 to play. From there, McPherson closed the half on a 13-3 run to turn the six-point deficit into a four-point lead at the break. The Bulldogs, led by six points from Cami Richardson (Hesston, Kan., Hesston HS), were 4-of-5 from the field down the stretch and a perfect 4-of-4 at the line down the stretch.

McPherson started out cold to begin the second half, missing its first three shots of the half as Bethel opened with an 10-0 run to retake the lead. The Threshers held a 41-35 lead at the 5:56 mark but saw the Bulldogs rally with a 7-2 run to make it a one-point game headed to the fourth quarter. Both teams struggled from the field as McPherson made its run, combining for just one made field goal - by the Bulldogs' Brooke Zimmerman (Aurora, Colo., Western Nebraska CC) - and seven free throws.

Karlie Schroeder scored the first points of the final frame, hitting a 3-pointer with 8:51 remaining to give Bethel a four-point lead. McPherson responded with baskets from Danielle Holt (Glenpool, Okla., Glenpool HS) and Richardson to tie the score at 46-all at the 7:47 mark. Ciara McKinney gave the Threshers the lead back with a layup with 6:28 left. The next two-and-a-half minutes bled off the clock without a score before Brittany Roberts (Mansfield, Texas, Lake Ridge HS) scored to draw the Bulldogs even at 48-all. Abby Schmidt put back a J'Daijon Sumpter miss and Fantasia Johnson scored a basket off a Richardson turnover to put Bethel up by four with just 1:47 to play, but McPherson continued to attack the basket.

The Bulldogs were able to draw fouls on three of their next four possessions while also picking up a pair of offensive rebounds but could not convert at the charity stripe. McPherson went 1-of-2 at the line on three separate two-shot opportunities in the final 1:17 and could only cut the Bethel lead to one. Johnson was fouled on a made basket that made it a 54-51 game with 11 seconds to play, but missed the ensuing free throw to keep it a one-possession game. Given one last opportunity to possibly extend the game to overtime, the Bulldogs were unable to get a shot off before time expired.

After shooting nearly 50 percent (12-of-25) in the first half, McPherson's shooting fell off precipitously in the final 20 minutes. The Bulldogs were just 4-of-22 from the field and 0-of-10 from behind the arc in the second half. McPherson was effective at getting to the line, drawing 22 personal fouls while committing just 16, but managed to hit on just 17 of 27 free-throw attempts.

Richardson - who surpassed 500 career points in the contest (now at 506) - led the Bulldogs with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but was 0-of-6 from behind the arc. She also had three steals and a pair of rebounds. Brooklyn Coe (Corvallis, Ore., Chemeketa CC) added seven points, four rebounds and three steals, while Roberts had six points and six rebounds before fouling out. Battle matched Roberts with six points, while Olvera and Zimmerman had five points apiece.

Schmidt had a game-high 14 points and seven rebounds to lead the Threshers. She was a perfect 3-for-3 from field and 8-of-10 at the line and also had four blocked shots before fouling out. Schroeder added 11 points and three steals, while Johnson, Potter and Riley Schmieder each had six points.

As a team, Bethel shot 44.4 percent (20-of-45) from the field with five 3-pointers. The Threshers were also 9-of-13 at the line.

McPherson, which has now lost four in a row, heads to the University of Saint Mary Jan. 10 to close out the first half of KCAC play. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. from the Ryan Sports Center in Leavenworth. The Spires (8-8, 5-5 KCAC) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 73-63 win at York Saturday night.