Manhattan Christian's Sterling Turner helped guide the Thunder to a third place finish in the NCCAA DII National Tournament.

Thunder end record-breaking season on high note


Coming off a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of #3 Grace Bible College (Wyoming, MI) a night earlier, the Manhattan Christian College Thunder men prepared Saturday for the consolation game, and a chance to end the season on a positive note despite the loss and earn a school record tying third place finish. 

The challange at hand Saturday was being able to tame the hot shooting North Central University Rams (Minneapolis, MN). The Rams had lost a night prior to the #1 Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College Saints, however Wednesday night they overcame a 25 point second half deficit against Arlington Baptist College, scoring an unheard of 72 points in the second half to force overtime, where they outscored Arlington 20-11 in the extra period to earn a spot in the semifinals against the Saints. 

The start for the Thunder was uncharacteristic as they scored the first bucket of the game, but then were outscored 15-6 over the course of the first five minutes of play, as the Rams connected on five of six shots from behind the arc to stretch their lead to seven. Manhattan would eventually settle in and pick up the defensive pressure, that would force the Rams into many forced and out of rhythm shots.

North Central would continue their hot streak despite the increase in defensive pressure, and maintainted a lead of at least eight throughout the majority of the first half. It seemed no matter what alterations coach Condra and his staff made, the Rams were able to connect on just about everything they tossed at the rim. The Thunder were able to rely on senior All-American Will Chisam inside, as well as the pesky defensive nature, and the ability to finish at the rim of sophomore Sterling Turner to keep them within striking distance. 

The duo for the Thunder led a spirited comback effort with six minutes to go in the half that brought them to a tie with 4:38 remaining, and a junior Rayshaun McDonald jumper put them ahead with 42-40 with 2:57 to go. But the Rams made a run of their own as went on a 10-6 run to close out the half and take a narrow 50-48 lead into the locker room. 

The second half was much more of a back-and-forth affair as the two teams traded buckets on continual possessions, neither seeming to be able to gain a true edge on the other until late about the 8:00 mark.

There, the Thunder seemed to take control holding a 85-77 lead over the Rams, as they were able to keep the deficit at eight points or more for the remainder of the game. Solid possessions as well as defensive pressure contributed to the Thunders success late, as they were able to frustrate the Rams into making quick, arraint passes that lead to open looks and transition buckets. 

Up 106-95 with just 0:39 remaining, coach Condra subbed seniors Will Chisam and David Frost out one last time to a standing ovation from the Thunder faithful in attendance. The sentiment was a testament to the hard work and dedication both had shown over their four-year careers at MCC, both being part of teoams that had seen both adversity and success throughout their years. 

Manhattan would go on to defeat North Central by a score of 106-96 and claim third place in the 2016 NCCAA D2 National Tournament. They were led in the game by sophomore Sterling Turner who put together another impressive game earning himself a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Senior Will Chisam had 17 points, while junior Michael White chipped in 14 of his own.

The Thunder ended the record breaking season on a positive note, tying a school record for the highest finish of third place, and with a record of 27-10. They will look to reload in the offseason losing both Chisam and Frost to graduation, but look to further develop those remaining on the roster, as well as add some new additions to the loaded 2016-17 squad.