MCC Men - National Tournament Preview
THUNDER GUNS FOR FIRST NATIONAL TITLE
By Mark Janssen
With a victory over the No. 1 team in the nation, and have that win be for a Southwest Regional championship, and have that championship be worth an automatic seed in the Division II National Christian College Basketball Championships, and if you’re the coach of that team, it’s only natural to wonder how the team responds.
“They were pretty stoked on Saturday. They knew they had accomplished something by beating Randall on their home floor,” said Manhattan Christian College men’s basketball coach Shawn Condra of the Thunder’s 104-103 victory.
And since then, Condra said, “Practices have been shorter, but with more intensity. We’re playing mature kids. Most are juniors and seniors, and the younger kids are mature kids. We have four or five guys who played a lot last year and they’ve been very business-like, so there’s reason to feel optimistic.”
MCC enters Thursday’s noon tipoff at the national tournament in Ankeny, Iowa, as the No. 2 seed entering a first-round game against No. 7 seeded Kentucky Christian College.
The Thunder ended the season with a 23-7 record and No. 2 national ranking in the latest poll.
The Knights finished at 16-13 and stood at No. 6 in the last national poll. A loss to Grace Bible College in the Mideast Regional semi-finals ended a 12-game win streak for Kentucky Christian.
The Knights’ go-to man is 6-foot-4 Hayden Dunn, who was the Mideast Region MVP. He leads the nation in scoring at 25.4 points per game, plus snares 11.0 rebounds. He shoots 53 percent overall, which includes 40 percent from 3-point range.
“We’ve seen tape and Kentucky Christian is a very good team,” said Condra. “If we don’t bring our ‘A’ game we’ll be in trouble.”
MCC has been playing “A-type” hoops as the Thunder has won six games in a row, and 19-2 dating back to Dec. 8, 2016. Both of those losses were in overtime to Randall.
On the opportunity to win three more games and capture a first-ever national title, Condra said, “It would mean accomplishing something that has never been done. If you win, it means that you are the best at your level of play. That would mean making a statement. As a coach, you want to achieve at the highest level. We just hope to go and play with focus and to our capabilities.”
Twice MCC has placed third in the nation with those coming in 2009 and 2016.
After defeating No. 1 Randall in the Southwest Region championship game, Condra said, “The guys were hoping to be seeded No. 1, but it doesn’t matter now so we’ll go to nationals and see what we can do.”
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING
Condra stops short of calling this 2016-17 MCC team his best in his 23-year coaching career, but he does say, “It’s the best offensive team I’ve ever had. Last year’s team may have executed better out of sets, but this team is so explosive. We try to put them in a position and then let them go make plays.”
And how they make plays!
The Thunder leads the nation with its 94-point scoring average. In addition, MCC’s team shooting percentage of .495 is best in the country and its .384 mark from 3-point range is fourth best.
While not with imposing size inside with 6-4 Nick Babalola and 6-5 Mike White, the inside duo provides 38 points per game with White’s average of 20.7 and Babalola’s average of 17.4.
As Condra under-states, “They’re quite a combination.”
While most of White’s points come inside, Babalola has the ability to step outside as is shown with his team-high 65 3-pointers, which have come on 42 percent shooting. In addition, both have a feathery touch from the foul line with Babalola netting 81 percent and White 73 percent.
Outside, Sterling Turner (13.9), Ray McDonald (11.8) and Chance Houston (10.6) all average in twin figures for another 36 points with each netting at least 35 percent of their 3-pointers.
Plenty of depth comes from Horace Scott (8.7), Gabe Awbrey (6.7) and Dalton Miller (6.3), who contribute an additional 22 points per game. Miller nails 46 percent of his treys, Awbrey 38 percent and Scott 34 percent.
WHITE BLISTERING HOT
Condra simply says of Mike White, “He’s playing as effectively as I’ve ever seen him.”
The 6-5 senior enters tourney play with team-high averages of 20.7 points and 10.6 rebounds.
In the 104-103 championship victory over No. 1 ranked Randall University at the Southwest Region, White poured in 42 points on a sizzling 16-of-20 shooting from the field, plus snared 16 rebounds.
For the three Southwest Region games, he scored 42, 27 and 22 points on a combined 35-of-43 shooting, or 82 percent accuracy.
“It’s a compliment to him, but also to our team for realizing he was hot so they kept getting him the ball,” said Condra. “Team-wise, we had good recognition on what was needed to do to win, and then Mike was at his best.”
WOULDN’T A 4TH GAME AGAINST RANDALL BE SOMETHING?
Randall University and Manhattan Christian College ended the regular season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, respectively. While Randall won the first two games both in overtime (96-87 and 123-118), it was MCC that won the final game (104-103) two weeks ago to claim the Southwest Region title.
“We came back from being down nine points with three minutes to go,” said Condra. “To beat them the way we did proves that we can go out and compete against any of the best teams at this level.”
In the three MCC-Randall games, a total of 631 points were scored, or an average of 210 per game.
“I’m glad we’re in opposite brackets,” said Condra of MCC being the No. 2 seed and Randall the No. 4 seed. “If we have play them again it might as well it to be for the national championship.”
GRACE BIBLE COLLEGE NO. 1 SEED
Remember the name Grace Bible College? Shawn Condra does, for sure. It was the team that defeated MCC in the semi-finals of the 2016 National tournament, 85-74, leaving the Thunder settling for third with a final-game victory over North Central.
“They have good perimeter play, but last year they really bullied us inside,” said Condra. “They are really big at 6-8, 6-6, plus with a 7-footer coming off the bench.”
Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Grace is 24-9 and on a 17-game win streak dating back to Dec. 29. Grace defeated Randall in November, and they lost earlier in the year to Kentucky Christian but then defeated the Knights in the Mid-East Regional semi-finals.
Thursday 10:00 – No. 3 Valley Forge (PA) vs. No 6 Trinity College of Florida
Thursday 12:00 -- No. 2 Manhattan Christian College vs. No. 7 Kentucky Christian
Thursday 6:00 – No. 4 Randall University (OK) vs. No. 5 Bob Jones University (SC)
Thursday 8:00 – No. 1 Grace Bible College (MI) vs. No. 8 Moody Bible Institute (IL)
Friday 9:00 – Game 1-2 losers
Friday 12:30 – Game 3-4 losers
Friday 4:00 – Game 1-2 winners
Friday 7:30 – Game 3-4 winners
Saturday 9:00 – Winners Games 5-6 for 5th place
Saturday 12:30 – Losers of Games 7-8 for 3rd place
Saturday 6:00 – Winners of Games 7-8 for 1st place
THE WEEK AHEAD
Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, will serve as host for the Division II National Championships. Men’s and women’s’ teams will be treated to a banquet Tuesday night, while Wednesday players will be involved in community projects – a free basketball clinic, plus serving at the Alpha Women’s Center and the Ankeny Christian Academy.
Tourney play begins Thursday with the men playing at 10, 12, 6 and 8. A MCC win in its noon game will put them against the Valley Forge vs. Trinity College of Florida winner on Friday at 4 p.m., or the losers of those two games will play at 9 a.m. on Friday.
The tournament champion will be crowned on Saturday at 6 p.m.
MCC THUNDER ROSTER
Seniors – Rayshaun McDonald, Dalton Miller, Mike White, Nick Babalola
Juniors – Chance Houston, Sterling Turner
Sophomores – DeShawn Ortmeier, Horace Scott, Fred Douglas
Freshmen – Isaiah Dobbins, Gabe Awbrey, Logan LaRue, Matt McElroy