What better Christmas present would there be for McPherson High’s basketball teams than wins tonight over arch-rival Buhler on the Crusaders’ home court?
Tonight’s games were originally scheduled for Jan. 5, but KSHSAA ruled recently that no games could be played before Jan. 8 as it wants to give teams a longer break for health reasons. So the schools decided to move the games up a couple of weeks.
I haven’t looked at the schedule, but I’m guessing there aren’t many games slated for tonight as this is the last day of school for the majority of Kansas institutions.
For the McPherson girls, they want to get back to playing “Bullpup Basketball,” which includes getting off to a flying start that has been a trademark of so many of their victories. In games Friday and Saturday, the Bullpups found themselves down double digits early as they were cold from the outset in the losses to Dodge City and Barstow Academy.
3-point shooting has been such a staple of the program, but they have been around the 20 percent mark the last two games. The Bullpups have not yet developed a consistent inside scoring game, due in part to this being one of the smallest teams coach Chris Strathman has ever put on the floor. The tallest player is Grace Pyle, but she’s a perimeter player though she has scored more inside than she did last year by putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket.
The other MHS problem has been excessive fouling, as at times the Bullpups are a bit ramped up on the defensive end and reach with their hands. In the Barstow game, they put the Knights at the foul line 38 times.
Buhler might be the elixir tonight as the Crusaders were a senior-dominated team last year and so far this year have struggled to score, averaging 27.7 points a game.
As for the Bullpup boys, this team has come such a long way since opening the season with a lopsided loss to Andover, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A.
The Bullpups have progressively improved as they’re playing fundamental basketball. They have kept their turnovers at a minimum, including just 19 total in the two games this past weekend, which has pleased coach Kurt Kinnamon to no end.
They’re doing it with no true post presence as Seth Madron is the tallest starter on the floor at 6-1. Madron is an explosive player and is realizing he can use his athleticism to get to the basket.
Guards Jayton Alexander and the emerging Jayden Dukes have turned into quite a tandem as the ball is in their hands extensively. Alexander is the ultimate competitor and has been a model of consistency. Dukes has been by far the big surprise of the season after playing only a handful of varsity minutes last year. He’s smooth, plays under control and is an excellent rebounder for a guard.
Eli Pyle and Adam Elliott are outstanding 3-point shooters as they’re getting good looks due to the Bullpups’ crisp ball movement. Once they become more consistent, this is a Bullpup offense that should be able to put a lot of points on the board.
There’s an air of mystery surrounding Buhler tonight since the Crusaders have yet to play a game due to COVID. It’s a given Max Alexander will be their best player, but the transfer of 6-7 Myles Thompson, who was a talented offensive player and physical presence, is sure to be felt.
But Buhler is still Buhler, which means it will compete its tails off. The Bullpups have quite a streak going against the Crusaders, including last year’s pulsating finish at Jim Baker Field House when Jayton Alexander scored the game-winning basket with 3.3 seconds left.
As of now, the Bullpups will come back in January to host Winfield on the 8th, then play key road games the following week at Augusta and Circle to complete the first time through the league schedule.