Class 5A West, in a word, is loaded.
If the basketball season ended today, the McPherson High boys would be hosting a first-round game against defending Class 5A state champion Andover Central, which features Top 5 player Xavier Bell.
MHS, of course, went on the road to defeat the Jags in the second game of the season as it played one of its best games.
Also if the season ended today and MHS would be able to repeat its win over Andover Central, that would most likely set up a matchup with No. 1-ranked, undefeated and McPherson Invitational champion Bishop Carroll or a return match with Andover, which blitzed the Bullpups in the season opener with a dizzying 3-point shooting display. The Trojans also are undefeated, but has played one less game than Carroll.
That’s why the final five games of the season are extremely important. The Bullpups have all league games left, but the two toughest are on the road at Buhler and Augusta, which is the final game of the regular season -- a game that could determine whether there’s a tie for the league championship or the Bullpups win outright. MHS’ victory over the Orioles last month at the Roundhouse was one of their top efforts of the year as Augusta has all but one key player back from a team that was second in Class 4A last year.
There’s still plenty of time for movement in 5A West. Carroll and Andover would appear to be locked in the Top 2 spots, but then it starts to get interesting.
Also ahead of the Bullpups are Goddard Eisenhower (11-3), Kapaun (12-4), Great Bend (11-4), Salina South (10-4) and Hays (9-5).
Goddard Eisenhower is probably not catchable, but the others are. Of course, the Bullpups would need the perfect storm of events to happen for them to host both sub-state games as they would have to climb to No. 4. Last year, they hosted Newton in one of the greatest games I’ve ever covered at the Roundhouse when Jace Kinnamon made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game in regulation, then Kyler Hoppes made a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of OT for an 88-86 victory.
The Bullpups then went to Carroll in Wichita two days later and the Golden Eagles ended their season with an impressive performance.
McPherson is 9-6 on the year, but just look at the teams it has lost to. Andover, Derby and Kansas City Piper are all probable state teams, as are Wichita Collegiate and Andale. Blue Valley was a good 6A school, though it was manhandled by Carroll in the semifinals of the McPherson Invitational.
The Bullpups aren’t that far away. They let an 11-point lead get away in the Derby game and were in good position to win the Collegiate and Andale games. So, a play here and there and this would be a 12-3 team.
I think the Bullpups, to make state, have to at least climb to No. 6 by the end of the year. Not that they can’t beat Carroll or Andover, but it would take a great effort as those two teams are simply outstanding. There’s a reason both are undefeated.