McPherson High’s girls will take away much more from their 44-37 loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest on Saturday than a running-clock victory over an overmatched opponent.
No team likes to lose, and for the Bullpups the defeat was their first of the year, but it put the focus on what aspects MHS needs to get better at. And who knows, maybe taking the bullseye off their back of being undefeated may work out in the long run.
MHS’ loss in the championship game of the Mid America Classic could be traced back to its 14-2 deficit at the start of the game. I don’t know if the Bullpups were overly excited or nervous, but I can hardly remember a game in the past where they were down so much, so soon.
As you would expect, the Bullpups not only clawed their way back into the game, but even took the lead in the third quarter as they were suffocating on the defensive end. But a critical, old-fashioned 3-point play with just over a second left in the third quarter pushed Northwest’s lead from 1 to 4, then the Cougars knocked down a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to grab control of the game.
Consider it lesson learned. The Bullpups, without 6-1 Andrea Sweat who is out for the year with knee surgery, are not a tall team. Cassie Cooks and Grace Pyle play big, but when you go up against a talent like 6-2 Northwest center Kennedy Taylor, you’re at a disadvantage.
Taylor was incredibly dominant in the tournament, leading the Classic in both scoring and rebounding. She hit a couple of straight-on banks in the first half that I’m sure she didn’t call, but the shots went in anyway. She’s a Division I talent as you don’t find many 6-2 players with her size, strength and fundamentals.
MHS may not face another team this year that can guard on the perimeter like Northwest, which will be in the hunt for the Class 6A championship. The Bullpups had many shots blocked as even when they got past the Northwest perimeter defense, Taylor was there to alter the shot. The Bullpups had really lit it up from 3-point in the first two games of the Classic, but weren’t nearly as effective in the championship game and that is a staple of their offense. They were limited to 15 attempts and 4 makes. For the game, MHS shot just 12 of 48 overall, a credit to Northwest’s tough defense.
The Bullpups have seven games remaining on their schedule, starting with two non-conference games this week. Unless they have the Classic blues, Wichita Collegiate shouldn’t put up a major challenge tonight. Andale on Friday at the Roundhouse is always competitive and well-coached with Ted Anderson, but it doesn’t score a lot of points. It did put up 63 on tonight’s opponent, Collegiate.
Then it’s the five league games to close out the season, with the only challenge most likely to come from Circle, but that game is here.
MHS, Maize South and Andover Central are leading in 5A West, all with one loss. Andover Central’s loss, of course, came to MHS back in December in that overtime game in Andover.
Salina Central and Carroll have two and three losses, respectively, then it drops down to a gaggle of teams with five losses. Carroll lost by 19 points to a Dodge City team the Bullpups blew out last month.
It’s still looking good for the Bullpups. On the East side, St. Thomas Aquinas and Kansas City Schlagle are the best teams, with Topeka Seaman, Kansas City Sumner and De Soto all fighting for a Top 4 berth.