McPherson High’s basketball teams left Buhler on Tuesday night feeling good and flying high.
And why not? What better way to go into the holidays than with decisive, double-digit victories over their most fiercest rival. The only downer was that more people weren’t on hand to see it due to COVID precautions, as the atmosphere in the stands wasn’t nearly as electric, but the play on the court certainly was.
You had to wonder about the Bullpups’ focus going into the games. Both MHS teams were playing their fourth game in a span of eight days and suffered disappointing losses on Saturday after making the nearly the 3-hour trip up to Kansas City and then 3 hours back.
Fortunately for the MHS girls, they played a Buhler team with a new coach and new system, not to mention a new starting lineup. They gave themselves a much-needed shot of confidence with a performance that has been so typical of them for so many years.
MHS jumped all over the Crusaders in the first quarter to lead 21-8, then ramped it up defensively even more in the second quarter to bury Buhler by the half, 46-12.
Coach Chris Strathman’s team had its best ball movement of the year as the sphere seldom got stuck. I didn’t keep track of assists, but I’m sure they were plentiful.
MHS also was able to score more inside, something it is going to have to establish moving forward when it plays the tougher teams on its schedule. The Bullpups’ next three games are with Division III foes Winfield, Augusta and Circle, with Circle the only expected game that should provide much difficulty.
After those three games complete the first half of league play, the Bullpups return to Andover Central for the second year in a row to play a Jaguar team that lost only one game last year – to MHS – and like the Bullpups made the Class 5A Final Four before the season was halted. Central has most of its top players back and may be the best team left on the schedule, other than perhaps teams in the Mid America Classic.
The Bullpup boys’ game with Buhler was dripping with intensity. These teams didn’t need a howling crowd to be spurred on as both came out breathing fire.
The Crusaders, who were playing their first game of the year due to COVID so they were an unknown quantity, sped to a 13-5 lead as they came out knocking down shots. The Bullpups were somewhat flat-footed at the outset and it didn’t take long for the realization to hit that Buhler wasn’t messing around.
The Crusaders, however, went with a 2-3 zone, which was like a green light to the Bullpups. This can be a very good 3-point shooting Bullpup team and it destroyed the zone in the first half by making 8 of 16 from beyond the arc.
A frantic 12-0 Bullpup run over the final 61 seconds of the half turned what was a close game into a comfortable Bullpup lead as they went from up 32-31 to breathing easier at 44-31 as Buhler’s lack of practice time showed as the Bullpups got them sped up.
The second half was simply a case of MHS massaging the lead and not allowing the Crusaders to reel off any type of streak.
The Bullpups are getting better and better at getting everybody involved as four players scored in double figures. Jayton Alexander, who always seems to get up for Buhler, had a career night with 23 points, Seth Madron chipped in with 15, and Eli Pyle and Adam Elliott tallied 11 apiece. For the Bullpups to beat the really good teams, Pyle and Elliott have to shoot it like they did Tuesday.
It’s amazing how far this Bullpup team has come in less than 3 weeks. After watching Andover take it apart in the opener, the Bullpups have made light-years of improvement and will be a tough out for anybody.