It was an emotional and heart-felt night on Thursday at the Roundhouse.
The McPherson High girls’ outcome with Shawnee Mission South in the first round of the Mid America Classic was never in doubt. That actually was a minor sub-plot in the grand scheme of things.
What was expected to be a competitive game turned lopsided in a hurry as the Bullpups showed no effects of a 13-day layoff by racing to a 21-6 first-quarter lead and were up 37-14 at the half before putting it on cruise control in the second half for a 59-40 victory.
There were two moments, though, that tugged at the heartstrings of Bullpup fans and were the highlights of the night.
The first occurred just over 4 minutes into the game when Bullpup All-Stater Mandi Cooks stepped on to the court for the first time this season after missing the first 10 games recovering from a torn Achilles suffered this summer while playing in Texas.
Nobody expected Cooks in her first game to pick up where she left off. When we last saw her, she was pouring in 20 points in the Class 4A Division I championship game against Bishop Miege.
I know if I were Mandi, I would have been uber-apprehensive. She didn’t even know if she was going to play this year, yet here she was on the court after missing only half the season. It was a testament to her hard work and dedication as she wanted to be back on the court with her teammates as they attempt to win a state championship after coming up just short last year.
She was indeed rusty as she played 100 miles per hour, trying to make up 10 games in a matter of minutes. She didn’t score a point, but grabbed a couple of rebounds and altered a couple of shots in her 7:38 time on the court. Just her being out there was an emotional lift for the team and it sure energized her sophomore sister and replacement Cassie, who played like a house on fire with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals while playing with an aggression unlike she’s had all year. At times they were even on the court at the same time.
Mandi will slowly work her way back into form. It’s not going to happen this week and not next week. But by the time sub-state rolls around in March, she should be close to her All-State form.
The other feel-good moment was Taylor Robertson breaking Ashley Sweat’s MHS career scoring record late in the first quarter. The current Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year now has 1,601 career points and if the Bullpups go as far as expected, she’ll have another 14 games to add to that total. Just say she averages 20 points — and that may be modest — she’s going to add at least another 280 to 300 points to that total and may put the record totally out of sight.
I think of all the practice time she has put in since she picked up a basketball at a very young age and her being on You Tube as a grade schooler with her dribbling exploits. She has been in the public eye for 10 years, starting as a former national free throw champion and has handled all the attention so well. She doesn’t show a lot of emotion, never getting too high or too low, but I know when the game was stopped for a standing ovation, she certainly appreciated it. Players like her don’t come along very often and I think Bullpup fans know they have witnessed something very special over the last 4 years.
All that would make it even more special this week is for Cooks and Robertson — the only seniors on the team — to win the Classic for the first time in their careers. That and a state championship is all that’s missing from their glittering resumes.