There was much anticipation to how the first-ever official “Mayor’s Cup” would be received as the annual basketball series between Central Christian College and McPherson College was moved off campus to the venerable McPherson High School Roundhouse.
As far as I’m concerned, it exceeded expectations.
The Cup came together pretty quickly as it was just a couple of weeks earlier that McPherson mayor Tom Brown came to my office and presented his vision. I thought he was perhaps thinking about starting it next year, but he was full speed ahead and wanted it to happen now.
The mayor really did the legwork on this endeavor by securing sponsors and presenting his case to the schools. Input came from CCC Athletic Director John Garvilla, Mac AD Andrew Ehling, and college presidents Dr. Lenny Favara at Central and Michael Schneider at McPherson College.
Brown also worked closely with McPherson High AD Shane Backhus and his trusty facilities coordinator Dave Larson to get the Roundhouse ready for the college games. The 3-point line is different, so one had to be taped down, not to mention there’s a cylinder inside the lane that has to be added. Finally, portable shot clocks had to be brought in and they arrived from Hutchinson Juco about 30 minutes before game time.
Once everything was in place, it was fun to watch the crowd grow as the evening went on. I had no doubt the CCC and Mac students would turn out. One of the stipulations was the students got in free with their college ID and kudos to both schools’ students for being so enthusiastic and passionate.
Given McPherson’s reputation for being the “Basketball Capital of Kansas,” I had few qualms about the public getting involved. After all, a lot of people in town attended Central or Mac, then stayed in McPherson to pursue their life occupation.
The result was a bigger crowd than I imagined. I know the mayor was nervous that less than half the gym would be full, but it was as populated as it would be for a regular-season MHS home game, unless the Bullpups were up against Buhler, then it’s packed. The days of the “old Roundhouse” crowds have long passed, though I still hear stories how fans used to stand all the way around the top three- and four-deep and virtually hung from the rafters.
The games themselves were exciting. The Mac women had just defeated Central by 22 in the recent McPherson College Classic, but the injury-depleted Tigers fought the good fight and hung in there for about three quarters. Mac went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 71-56 victory.
The men’s game has been titanic down through the years. The Bulldogs were wretched at the start, making 8 of 33 shots in the first half and trailed by as many as 16.
They were on fire right after half, though, making a 20-point turnaround as they went from 13 down to 7 up. But the Tigers took Mac’s best punch and responded with some scalding 3-point shooting the final 5 minutes for a 68-60 victory.
So fans of both schools went home semi-happy as the Mac women hoisted the Cup and the Central men did likewise.
Hopefully the tradition will continue next year because I don’t think either team will play in a much better atmosphere than this.