What a great 2 weeks for MHS basketball

By Steve Sell
January 29, 2018

What a 2 weeks it was at the Roundhouse.

Starting with the McPherson High boys winning their fourth Invitational title in a row — and 24th overall — and ending with the Bullpup girls holding off Manhattan for their first Mid America Classic title since 2012 — and 11th in their history — McPherson fans delighted in watching their teams perform at the highest level.

It's hard to believe given their sustained success, but it's the first time in 12 years that both MHS teams won their respective tournaments in the same year. The MHS boys outlasted Manhattan 41-38 in the 2006 finals and the girls defeated Hesston 66-55 a week later.

Now the Bullpup teams have some time off. Maybe too much time.

The Bullpup girls will return a week from today at Newton, then have home games against Great Bend and El Dorado on Tuesday and Friday.

The boys will have had 2 weeks off before they host Great Bend on Feb. 6.

The rest is good for both teams as they can recharge their batteries. But the way they are playing, maybe they'd like to keep after it.

For the girls, the Newton game will be a good test as it will be a hostile environment. The Railers, who beat the Bullpups on a last-second shot last year, were crushed 69-35 by Miege on Saturday in the championship game of the Newton Invitational.

When you look at the rest of February, though, only a home game with Circle offers the level of competition MHS just faced in the Classic. And remember, the Bullpups throttled the T-Birds on the road earlier this month.

The other teams in AVCTL Division III probably won't provide much of a challenge.

The boys will have more competition. Road games at Buhler and Augusta have the potential to be intriguing.

When you look at Class 4A Division I, it's looking more and more like MHS and Bishop Miege clearly are the best teams on both sides. The only loss for both Bullpup teams came at the hands of the Stags when the teams met in December in Roeland Park. The boys led the Stags much of the way, while the girls were tied with 5 1/2 minutes to go. Should the MHS and Miege girls meet again, they would be at full strength as Mandi Cooks has returned for the Bullpups and Ashton Verhulst is back for the Stags as she missed the game with an injury.

Cooks returning is a shot in the arm for the Bullpups. While she showed a lot of rust the first two nights and was a bit anxious — and understandably so — she displayed her past form in the championship game. She was 6 of 6 from the field and scored 15 points in her 16 minutes. Look for MHS coach Chris Strathman to keep monitoring her minutes for the next few games, but she should be ready for full-time duty when the calendar flips to March. She'll be using these next seven games to work on her conditioning as Saturday she showed she still has the skill set.

Cooks' return also makes the Bullpups even more deeper, if that's possible. Strathman has so many options since his bench players are just about as talented as his starters and they all have specific strengths. He's is doing a great job of creating matchups that work in the Bullpups' favor.

The Bullpup teams will be home for the sub-state. After having seen the Hays and Ulysses girls in the Classic and the Bullpups already having swamped Buhler, I greatly like their chances. The boys' side will be more difficult, as Buhler and Hays are more than capable and Ulysses is a .500 team. Still, the Bullpups are playing at a high level and I look for both team to return to Salina. Hopefully we can be treated to the same scenario as last year when both played Miege for the championship.