Anthony Monson summed it up best in six words.
“We just came up short again,” he said following Kansas Wesleyan’s 74-63 loss to McPherson in the quarterfinals of the Kansas Conference men’s tournament on Thursday night at Mabee Arena.
The loss dropped the curtain on the Coyotes’ season, leaving them with an 18-12 record that included a 15-9 slate in the KCAC. It was their third quarterfinal loss at home in the last three seasons and was the final game for seniors James Brooks, Brendon Ganaway, Andre Harris, Zay Wilson and Rashun Allen.
“My heart goes out to them,” Monson said of the seniors. “I know how bad they wanted it, I know they wanted to win and competed with everything they could tonight.”
KWU was the tournament’s fourth seed and McPherson the No. 5 seed. The Bulldogs (21-10) move on to the semifinals and a game against top-seeded and No. 6-ranked Ottawa on Saturday night in Ottawa. The Braves walloped York 104-76 in their quarterfinal contest Thursday.
A slow start and nightmare finish were KWU’s undoing. McPherson made five of its first six shots and led 14-4 early on, but the Coyotes battled back, scored the last four points of the half and trailed 34-33 at intermission.
Down 38-36 early in the second half they scored seven straight points and led 43-38 with 16½ minutes left. A basket by A.J. Range gave KWU a 52-50 lead with 11:22 remaining, but the Bulldogs took the lead for good with a 12-2 run that made it 62-52 with just over seven minutes left.
The Coyotes got no closer than four (64-60) on a Brooks’ basket with 4½ minutes left.
McPherson took control by extending possessions after it appeared KWU had gotten a defensive stop. The Bulldogs had one offensive rebound the first half, but grabbed 11 the second half and outrebounded the Coyotes 25-17 the final 20 minutes.
One McPherson sequence epitomized KWU’s defensive rebounding frustration. After narrowing the deficit to 64-60, the Bulldogs missed three consecutive shots, but snagged three offensive rebounds and eventually scored on Josh Rivers’ shot in the lane.
The Coyotes had 16 offensive rebounds themselves, but just 12 second-chance points. They compounded matters by shooting 34.4 percent from the field the second half (11 of 32).
“They made winning plays, you’ve got to tip your hat to them,” Monson said of the Bulldogs. “They had one offensive board the first half and finished with 11. We just kept not completing the stop. It’s hard to keep playing defense over and over and over again.
“I think it just goes to show you that sometimes it’s not about Xs and Os, it’s about will and you have to give Mac a lot of credit. They had guys diving and knocking balls away to make winning plays. That was the difference in the game.”
Brooks led KWU with 19 points and had six rebounds in his last game as a Coyote. Range added 12 points and eight rebounds, Wilson seven points and six rebounds, and Ganaway six points and five steals.
The Coyotes shot 38 percent for the game (23 of 60), but just 6 of 24 beyond the arc (3 of 12 each half) and had 15 turnovers.
“We missed some bunnies around the basket,” Monson said. “It was a very physical game on both ends of the floor and you have to play tough with them.”
McPherson shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57), was 7 of 24 from deep and had 12 turnovers. Fred Watts led the Bulldogs with 17 points and eight rebounds while Lual Magot had 14 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ll have to take some time, process it, regroup and start looking forward to next year,” Monson said.