There was a lot of basketball played at McPherson College before Tim Swartzendruber came along four years ago. Almost 100 seasons of it.
And in that entire time, no group of Bulldogs was able to accomplish what Swartzendruber and his teams have in the last three seasons.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Swartzendruber said. “The kids have been tremendous. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done to change the culture here.”
Today, that culture takes a giant leap forward as No. 5 McPherson takes on No. 1 Northwood (Fla.) in the NAIA Division II men’s final four at Point Lookout, Mo., the Bulldogs’ first time in the national semifinals.
It’s also the third straight trip to the national tournament for McPherson – also the third trip in school history, all under Swartzendruber, who took the Bulldogs to the national quarterfinals last season.
“It all starts with good players,” Swartzendruber said. “We got some kids that grew up in McPherson in Jordan and Chris Crawford and Aaron Frazier and they grew up in a town where basketball is very important, where they learn what it takes to be very successful very early.”
Northwoood, led by former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, has spent the majority of the season on top of the NAIA Division II rankings and its 33-3 record is identical to McPherson.
The Seahawks are led in scoring by 6-foot-3 junior guard Jonathan Dunn, who averages 21.4 points, but is hardly Northwood’s only weapon. A pair of European forwards, 6-8 Masse Doumbe (17.7 points, 6.8 rebounds) and 6-7 Patrick Horstmann (12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds) can also take over games.
Northwood point guard Tyrone Davis averages 7.2 assists and 2.6 steals.
“They’re very big, and they’ve got some outstanding shooters,” Swartzendruber said. “And they want to try to pound the ball inside more than anything.”
No. 2 Oregon Tech plays No. 3 Davenport (Mich.) in the other semifinal.