We will never see the McPherson High girls basketball team that Bullpup coach Chris Strathman envisioned on the first day of practice back in November.
He started that first day knowing he would be without three-year starting point guard Lakyn Schieferecke for at least the first month due to her recovery from summer knee surgery.
The Washburn University signee worked incredibly hard to make a recovery faster than I would have imagined and she’s working herself back into the “Queen of Calm” form that made her among the state’s best players last year.
Then just hours before the opening-game tipoff against Andover, it was learned that Fort Hays State signee Emma Ruddle was suffering from a leg injury, which would eventually sideline her for the first 9 games.
Strathman could somewhat deal with that, but then during practice before the Derby showdown in Game 3, another Washburn signee – Andrea Sweat – was lost for the year with a non-contact knee injury, for which she subsequently had surgery.
So that meant three starters were down. I can remember a photo that Kendall Shaw took last month where they were sitting on the bench together with their crutches, braces and other apparatuses, thinking to myself “what could have been.”
Yet, the Bullpups somehow, some way got through December undefeated – including the memorable road win over Derby. They returned Schieferecke to begin January, but immediately lost new starter Emma Malm in the Piper game and she still hasn’t returned, but that could be imminent as there’s a possibility she’ll be back in the next 7-10 days.
Ruddle came back for Circle last Friday and after watching her for the first time on Thursday against Ulysses, she can still fly up and down the court with her terrific athleticism.
Fingers crossed, by the time the sub-state rolls around, only Sweat will be missing. It’s a big loss because of her versatility, height and length. She’s dealt with injuries throughout her career, but always kept a great attitude.
Even without Sweat, this is a Bullpup team good enough to win the Mid America Classic this week and make a serious postseason run. Friday’s 92-28 rout against Ulysses was a thing of beauty, as the precision with which the team played was a joy to watch, as they played unselfish, textbook basketball.
I really look for them to take it to Wellington to set up a showdown Saturday with either Shawnee Mission Northwest or Olathe South, both Class 6A powers. Both of those teams have plenty of size and a big-time player, Kennedy Taylor for Northwest and Dani Winslow for South. Both would provide a matchup problem, but MHS was able to combat height when the situation rose earlier this year.
Ruddle, Schieferecke, Grace Pyle, Kassidy Beam and Cassie Cooks make up as balanced of a starting five as there is in the state. We all knew what the first three could do, but Beam has been a revelation after being projected as first off the bench before the year. She’s now the team’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter. The improvement of Cooks also has been a bonus, as she has been a model of consistency despite often giving size away.
Lauren Labertew has filled in admirably when somebody is missing and does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Peyton Howard is becoming more of a factor as she is tremendously athletic and grabbed 6 rebounds on Thursday. Ella Schmid fits right in as her strength is 3-point shooting and nearly hit for double figures against Ulysses.
It’s a shame we’ll never seen the complete Bullpup team, but it’s still good enough to win it all.