MCC: Thunder and Lightning

By Mark Janssen

​Opponents of the Manhattan Christian College basketball team will have to pick their poison this weekend in game planning for the Midwest Christian College Postseason Tournament in Ankeny, Iowa.

​For certain, this MCC team … well, in the words of 23-year coach Shawn Condra, “… is probably as explosive on offense as any team we’ve had.”

​Need proof heading into Thursday’s 1:15 p.m. opener against Kansas Christian? Well, prior to Monday’s 123-118 loss to No. 1 ranked Randall in overtime:

• MCC was on a 11-game win streak dating back to Jan. 13, with the Thunder topping100 points four times and going for at least 90 points in four other games during that run.
• MCC’s wins during the 11 games had been by 16, 32, 29, 21, 50, 32, 28, 26, 15, 8 and 22 points.
• MCC’s scoring average of 97 points leads the nation.
• MCC’s team field goal percentage of .496 leads the nation.
• MCC’s 3-point shooting accuracy of .395 ranks third in the nation.
• MCC’s .723 percentage from the foul line ranks fourth in the nation.
• And, MCC ranks in the top five in the country in assists (3rd) and rebounds (5th), plus is ninth in blocked shots.

So, MCCC teams this week have a decision to make. Do they want to try to take away MCC’s “Thunder” of seniors Mike White and Nick Babalola, or, try to control its “Lightning”backcourt stable of a half-dozen movers and shakers?

THUNDER: While without a true post up center, the 6-foot-5 White has proven to be a tough dude to handle with averages of 19.6 points (12th in the nation) and 10.0 rebounds (4th in the nation). If not White, it’s 6-4 Babalola contributing 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds. Of his 109 field goals made, 39 have come from beyond the 3-point line on .398 accuracy.

Of White, Condra says, “I don’t think we’ve ever had an individual here average 20 and 10. We expected a lot from him going into the year, but it wasn’t those numbers. He’s just had a remarkable season.”

And of Babalola, the MCC coach added, “Nick has probably been one of our more efficient players with his ability to go inside, but also shoot it from outside, plus get those rebounds.”

Never were the two better than last week against second-place Barclay when they combined for 56 points and 28 rebounds in a 109-94 victory. And, in Monday’s loss to Randall, the duo combined for 52 points and 18 boards.

LIGHTNING: Take your pick of any of the six guards and Condra says, “I’d feel very comfortable putting any three of the six out there. I think our guards are collectively as good as anyone that we will play.”

Starting most games have been 5-10 junior Chance Houston, 5-9 senior Rayshaun McDonald, and 5-10 junior Sterling Turner. Sterling averages 13.2 points with 45 percent 3-point shooting, McDonald 12.4 points on 37 percent shooting from afar, and Houston 11.4 on 35 percent shooting. The trio also lead the team in assists with each averaging between 3.0 and 4.0per game.

Without skipping a beat, Condra can come off the bench with 5-10 senior Dalton Miller, 6-0 sophomore Horace Scott or 6-2 freshman Gabe Awbrey. Collectively, they add another 25 points to MCC’s scoring barrage.

“Without a true center, those guys have really stepped up and done what we needed them to do in playing a small-ball type of game,” said Condra.

Pausing, he added, “We’ve been seeing teams try to speed us up, but I think that’s a dangerous way to play us. I know I wouldn’t want to get in a track meet with us because we have six really fast guys.”

By finishing as league champions with a perfect 9-0 record, Condra was allowed to nominate his entire starting-five for all-league honors, and did so.

“It’s hard to get more than two on the first team, but we have several candidates for that,” said Condra. “I would certainly think that Mike is a candidate for the league’s MVP award.”

Having scored at least 90 points in seven of the nine league games, and with all but one of those victories being by at least 13 points, MCC will be the significant favorite to win this weekend’s tournament.

“We like that pressure because we want to win,” said Condra of his club that sports a 17-7 record. “With the closest team to us having three league losses is really different. If we keep playing like we have been for three days in a row, I think we should be able to win it. But that’s only if we play at our best. That’s our challenge.”

Placing second and third in the league this year were Barclay with three losses and Faith Bible College with four.

MCC’s men’s team has won, or tied, for first place in regular season play in nine of the last 11 years. It has also won the postseason tournament in four of the last six years that the event has been played. Last year, Barclay won the regular season crown, and MCC the postseason tournament.

While not looking past this weekend, up next for MCC will be the Southwest Region Tournament that will be hosted in Moore, Okla., where rival Randall University awaits. This year the two teams been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation for the majority of the year.

Earlier in the year, Randall won at home against MCC, 96-87 in overtime, while on Monday it was another extra-period Saints’ victory, 123-118, at the Manhattan City Auditorium.

Also in the Southwest Region and receiving votes in the national polls is Arlington Baptist.

“I think that the team that wins our Region will have a chance to win it all,” Condra said in reference to the national tournament scheduled in Ankeny, Iowa, on March 9-10-11. “I think it’s the best Region in the nation, so if we make it to the championship game, and Randall makes it, both teams will go to nationals. (Pause) But I want to win the Region and not let it go to a vote as to whether we get in, or not.”

MCC Scoreboard

2/25/2021 | Mens Basketball vs. No. 2s Arlington Baptist College | L, 88-81 
2/20/2021 | Mens Basketball vs. No. 1 Barclay College | W, 109-90 
2/20/2021 | Womens Basketball vs. No. 5 Faith Baptist Bible College | W, 78-67 
2/19/2021 | Mens Basketball vs. No. 3 Faith Baptist Bible College | W, 93-70 
2/19/2021 | Womens Basketball vs. No. 7 Central Christian College of the Bible | W, 64-57