Battling the flu bug for the last week, Tronis McKay was at less than 100 percent, but he came off the bench and led a big comeback for Bismarck State College on Thursday night.
After not starting the game and playing just three minutes in the first half, McKay played a big part in the Mystics’ stunning second-half run that led to a 120-111 win over United Tribes in a Mon-Dak Conference game at the BSC Armory.
McKay finished with 15 points, hit a pair of big 3-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds as BSC erased an 18-point deficit in the final 11 minutes.
The Mystics, who have battled injuries all season, had four starters out of the lineup, and McKay’s availability was uncertain.
“We didn’t know how much he could even go but he helped us down the stretch,” BSC coach Buster Gilliss said. “He got some key rebounds, a block, hit some shots. He sparked us, and we needed that.
“I didn’t even expect him to play, to be honest with you but we were thrilled he was able to do that.”
Bismarck State snapped a seven-game losing streak and avenged a 104-102 loss to the Thunderbirds last month at United Tribes.
The Mystics swept the doubleheader. BSC posted an 81-65 win in the women’s contest earlier in the night.
Kaelen Johnson, also battling the flu bug, finished with 26 points and eight rebounds for BSC.
Sam Pendleton hit a pair of free throws to cap an 11-0 run that gave United Tribes a 91-73 lead with 11:06 remaining.
Trailing by 18, Bismarck State closed on a 47-20 run over the final 11 minutes.
“We had to dig down pretty deep,” Gilliss said. “We hit some key shots and even though we missed some free throws, we got done what we needed to.
“We needed to take our frustration out on someone because we’ve lost so many close games this year. Just feels good to get a win.”
Brody Nieuwsma’s long 3-pointer with 2:01 remaining gave BSC the lead for good at 111-108.
Six different players scored in double figures for BSC (9-16, 3-7 Mon-Dak). Nieuwsma posted a double-double with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Austin Slaughter also had a double-double – 20 points and 10 boards. Kaelen Johnson added 26, KyJuan Johnson and McKay each had 15 and Zac Martin 11.
The Mystics also turned up the intensity on defense, slowing down the Thunderbirds down the stretch.
“We talked about trying to string three stops in a row,” Gilliss said. “We thought if we could do that, we had a chance to win. I don’t know if we actually did that but we got some stops.
“We found a way to win it.”
Shayden Keplin led four players in double digits for United Tribes (19-9, 4-6 Mon-Dak) with 27. Sam Pendleton had 23 points and dished out 15 assists for a double-double, Rob McClain posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Tre Williams added 16.
BSC 81, UTTC 65
The shots weren’t falling, but Marv Pederson was confident it was just a matter of time.
Bismarck State didn’t connect on a 3-point shot for more than 25 minutes. But once Nicole Bunting hit back-to-back treys midway through the third quarter, the Mystics found their rhythm.
“I knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Pederson said. “Look at the stats, in the first half, 0 percent, 0-for-13, we said, just make one.
“Just one, if one shot goes in, I think we’re going to start making other shots. Bunting made that 3-pointer and after that it was one after another. We’re capable of doing that because we shoot a lot in practice. In the first half, we just couldn’t make a shot.”
Bunting’s back-to-back 3-pointers gave BSC a 45-40 lead.
After a 7-0 run by the Thunderbirds pushed them back in front at 47-45, the Mystics closed out the third quarter on a 7-0 run – a jumper by Hannah Hanson, a layup by Bunting, and a three-point play from Jaycee Walter with 3 seconds left to give BSC a 52-47 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Neither team was able to take command for the first 30 minutes, but BSC pulled away in the final quarter.
“Even at halftime, we were only up by two points, but we had a pretty upbeat attitude about it because we knew that somewhere throughout the game it was going to happen,” Pedersen said.
Hanson opened the third quarter with a long jumper, giving BSC a 54-47 lead. After a three-point play by Mia Wilkinson got UTTC within four points, BSC reeled off 10 straight to go ahead by 14 – 64-50 – with 7:11 remaining.
United Tribes pulled within seven (67-60) before BSC went on a 14-2 run – getting 3-pointers from Hanson, Syann Golus (two) and Mara Roteliuk to take a 75-60 lead with 3:45 to go.
The Mystics’ defense – along with their nine second-half 3-pointers – helped them break the game open late.
“We do play solid defense,” Pedersen said. “United Tribes is a good team – they took Science all the way down to the buzzer, only lost by six points, they’re 19th in the nation. This is a good win for our program.”
Faith Dionne led five players in double figures for the Mystics (14-10, 6-4 Mon-Dak) with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Golus finished with 15 points, Hanson and Bunting with 13 apiece and Walter with 12.
Walter also helped put the clamps down on Tariq Brownotter in the second half.
“We put her on (Brownotter) and I don’t know if she scored in the second half,” Pedersen said. “She had three 3s the first half, but was pretty quiet in the second half. Jaycee is our go-to person on the defensive end, she played extremely well in the second half.”
Wilkinson posted a double-double for the Thunderbirds (12-12, 2-8 Mon-Dak) with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Brownotter and Ky’Lee Driftwood each added 13.
Bismarck State hosts Williston State on Monday, Feb. 19 in their regular-season home finale before wrapping up the regular season at Dawson on Thursday, Feb. 22.
United Tribes hosts Lake Region State on Sunday in their regular-season home finale and finishes the regular season on Thursday, Feb. 22 at Williston State.