By Mitch Blankespoor
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Kalamazoo College men's basketball team opened up its 2013-14 season with a 93-87 victory over the Manchester University (Ind.) Spartans. This was the first of two games for the Hornets in the annual Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Challenge. In the other game, Trine University (Ind.) defeated Earlham (Ind.) 63-51.
Manchester would get off to a quick start. The Spartans took a 17-point lead with 9:28 remaining in the first half on a layup from Jarrod Schrock.
Determined not to fall to Manchester for a second consecutive year, the Hornets kept cutting into the deficit. A three-pointer from Kalamazoo senior guard Mark Ghafari with 5:28 left in the first half cut Manchester's lead to single digits at 33-26. The Grosse Pointe native would continue to dazzle the crowd with another one of his game-high six three pointers with 90 seconds to play cutting the Spartan lead to just two, 39-37. A difficult fade-away jumper as the horn sounded also found the twine from Ghafari, as K found itself tied at 41 going into the break.
"I thought we played a decent offensive game in the first half," Kalamazoo Head Coach Eric Dougal said in a post-game interview. "We were getting open looks, but just weren't hitting them. We started to buckle down defensively towards the end of the first half which really sparked our offense."
The two teams remained within three points for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Two free throws and a three-pointer from Ghafari put the Hornets up 69-61. Manchester would cut the lead to three points on two different occasions could not get any closer.
Mark Ghafari finished with a career-high 42 points on 12-18 shootings. The performance was two points off the school record off 44 points set by John Schelske in 1981.
"Mark [Ghafari] hit some tough shots tonight," Dougal said. "The fact that he scored 42 points on 18 shots is unbelievable. We didn't get him great looks towards the end of the game, but Mark knew the ball had to be in his hands. Great players make plays and Mark did that tonight."
Junior forward Adam Peters finished off a stellar night with 23 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
"Once Adam [Peters] hits his first shot, he really gets going," said Dougal. "He shoots the ball with so much confidence, just a great performance from him tonight."
Kalamazoo shot the ball well in all areas against the Spartan defense. The Hornets finished 27-52 from the field, 10-22 from beyond the arc, and 29-36 from the free throw line.
"We have some good shooters on this team," Dougal said.
Kalamazoo will play Earlham Friday with tipoff scheduled for 6:00 p.m. The Trine versus Manchester game will follow.