Saturday’s convincing 49-37 victory over previously undefeated Olathe South — Class 6A’s No. 3-ranked team — could very well springboard the McPherson High girls to a deep postseason run as it was a definite confidence-builder.
Last year the Bullpups used their first Classic title in 6 years as the impetus to their run that was culminated by the Class 4A Division I state championship with the memorable overtime victory over mighty Bishop Miege, which will waltz to the 4A title this year with the Bullpups now out of the picture since they’re a 5A school.
The Bullpups had to survive a surprisingly close call with Ulysses in the semifinals as perhaps they remembered crushing the Tigers by 37 points last year and were looking ahead to the finals. Ulysses put up a supreme effort and showed great improvement from last year.
But on Saturday, the Bullpups were poised, ready and at the pinnacle of their game.
They came flying out of the gates with a 19-8 first-quarter explosion and immediately got the loud Roundhouse crowd into the game. Say what you will, but a team can feed off the noise as the Bullpups were scrambling and trapping the Falcons all over the court.
Except for a third-quarter Falcon run that closed the margin within 5 — and the Bullpups quickly pushed it back to 10 — this was the team’s most complete performance of the year.
They did it without starting center Maggie Leaf, who is out with a shoulder injury. It is hoped she’ll be back quickly as she courageously played through the injury on Friday when she came up with 8 offensive rebounds and 9 for the game.
The tournament highlighted the Bullpups’ terrific athleticism. They don’t have an inside presence like Mandi Cooks was last year, but instead rely on their quickness and skillset. You never know from game to game who’s going to step up, and balance was the difference both Friday and Saturday. Very seldom do you see an MHS player score more than 13 or 14 points, as generally there are five or six players in the 8-to-12 range.
I don’t see many potholes left for the Bullpups during the regular season. There’s a road game at Circle that could be worrisome as well as a non-league game next month against Baldwin in Lawrence as the Bulldogs were the state champion last year in 4A D-II and have only one loss.
But this Bullpup team appears to be hitting its stride. The 3-point shooting has come and gone at times, but the defense has remained a constant. As long as they are strong at that end of the court, they’ll be tough to beat.
Class 5A West is really loaded as five teams stand above the rest. Goddard and Maize South are both 12-0, Maize is 12-1, and MHS and Wichita Heights are 11-1, which is why winning out is so important for seeding purposes.
The East is not nearly as strong, with St. Thomas Aquinas easily the best team, while other contenders are Blue Valley Southwest, DeSoto and Schlagle. The strength is definitely in the West where 10 of the 18 teams have winning records. Remember, sub-states are not pre-determined this year as there will be a seeding format this year and those with the best records get the home games.