The McPherson College men’s basketball team posted its third win in its last four outings Wednesday night with a 77-64 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference victory over Bethel College at the Sport Center.
It took a while for either team to really get going in the contest. In the first seven minutes, there were four ties and the lead changed hands three times. McPherson (10-13, 4-11 KCAC) finally grabbed a lead it would sustain when Grant Raleigh put the Bulldogs up 10-8 at the 12:35 mark with a basket in the paint. Bethel (10-13, 4-11 KCAC) was able to keep it close, getting to within one at 14-13 on a Deven Goodwin 3-pointer near the midway mark of the half, but the Bulldogs responded with eight straight points to push the lead to nine. Another Thresher rally sliced the lead to two on an Austin Mitchell jumper with 4:17 left in the half, but a traditional 3-point play by Aaron Bachura on McPherson's next trip down the court sparked an 11-5 run for the Bulldogs to close out the half. The rally was capped by a pair of baskets by Grant Munsen — one coming from well underneath the hoop as time expired - as McPherson led 33-25 at the break.
The Bulldogs never relinquished the lead in the second half, but that didn't keep the Threshers from making a couple of challenges. A Bachura 3-pointer at the 15:57 mark pushed the McPherson lead to 13 points, but Bethel responded with an 11-2 run keyed by consecutive treys by Chris Robinson and Chase Banister to get within four with over 12 minutes remaining. The Threshers would get no closer, though. A pair of Mitchell free throws with 4:29 left made it a six-point game, but Bachura and Thomas Butler made shots on consecutive trips down the floor for McPherson over the next minute to extend the lead back to double-digits.
McPherson went the final 3:30 without a shot from the field as Bethel was forced to foul early to salvage any attempt at a comeback. The Bulldogs, though, hit 12 of 15 free throws down the stretch to keep the Threshers at arms length and secure the victory.
After shooting 40.6 percent (13-of-32) from the field and missing on all six attempts from behind the arc in the first half, the Bulldogs responded to hit 54.5 percent (12-of-22) in the second half to finish the game at 46.3 percent overall. McPherson connected on four of nine 3-pointers after halftime and sank 23 of 27 shots from the foul line. The Bulldogs also held a 37-28 edge on the boards. Bethel shot 42.6 percent (23-of-54) from the field and made seven 3-pointers but made it to the line just 14 times, making 11.
Bachura led all players with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting with three 3-pointers and was a perfect 5-of-5 at the free-throw line. Grant Raleigh finished with 18 points, hitting six of eight shots from the field and all six foul shots he attempted. He also had a game-high four assists. Chris Crook gave McPherson three players in double figures, scoring 11 points. He also had four steals. Butler added eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Careino Gurley chipped in with four points and a team-high 10 boards.
Deven Goodwin led Bethel with 23 points — 18 in the second half — on 8 of 17 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Chase Bannister and Austin Mitchell each went 5 of 11 from the field and finished with 12 points apiece. Mitchell added four rebounds and four assists. Jacob Miller added seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
"First off, I want to say thanks to our students for the great turnout and enthusiasm. It was a great environment tonight," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "We are playing our best basketball right now and we want to continue. As a team, we took five charges tonight --- that is outstanding.”
McPherson looks to make it four out of five on Saturday with a trip to Sterling College (7-15, 4-10 KCAC). The Bulldogs are currently a game and a half out of a KCAC Tournament spot with seven games left in the regular season. The Warriors have dropped three straight. The three losses, though, have come against the top three teams in the league standings as of Jan. 25 (Tabor, Friends, Saint Mary). Tipoff from the Gleason Center is slated for 7 p.m