This is a season-defining week for McPherson High’s basketball teams.
It’s a three-game week for the Bullpups, who have important games that have huge ramifications for postseason seedings.
It starts on Tuesday when the Bullpups finally return home after a two-week sojourn that took them to Andale, El Dorado and Winfield.
Then comes the true acid test, a road trip on Friday to Circle and then the teams turn around and make the 2 1/2-hour trip to Lawrence on Saturday, with the girls playing defending Class 4A Division II champion Baldwin, while the boys play Lawrence Free State, which was the No. 1 seed in the McPherson Invitational before finishing third as it lost to eventual champion Shawnee Mission East in the semifinals.
Let’s start with the girls. The Bullpups’ game with Buhler on Tuesday is “Think Pink Night,” which is always charged with emotion. And playing the arch-rival Crusaders brings another element into play, though they have struggled and haven’t been competitive in recent games against the Bullpups.
Given how MHS has been in incredible lockdown mode on the defensive end in recent games, I can’t see the Crusaders making it a contest.
Friday’s game at Circle is dangerous. It most likely determines whether the Bullpups win the AVCTL Division III championship outright or shares it with the T-Birds, who are 13-3 overall. The teams played a low-scoring contest the first time, with MHS emerging with a 37-30 win as the T-Birds’ size kept them in the game.
Circle’s only other losses are to Wellington (by 2) and Mill Valley in tournament play, a 5-pointer.
You can bet the T-Birds will be sky-high for MHS as this is their last shot at the Bullpups with their current roster as they have some key seniors who have never beaten MHS.
On Saturday, the Bullpups play Baldwin, which is 14-1. The only loss for the Bulldogs came to KC Piper, which is undefeated.
It’s hard to get a feel for Baldwin, as it plays a smaller-school schedule. But it’s obvious the Bulldogs have some scoring power as they have been in the 70s four times.
Class 5A West has turned into a donnybrook. Maize South is on top at 16-0, Wichita Heights is 16-1, and MHS and Goddard are 15-1 as the Top 4 are a combined 62-3. Maize is lurking at 14-3. Maize South and Goddard clash in the final game of the season, but it doesn’t count toward seeding. Wichita Heights and Carroll meet on the last night, but again that doesn’t count as the seeding is done before that game.
This is even more of a monster week for the Bullpup boys. Buhler gave them all they wanted in the first meeting, with MHS squeaking out a 3-point win. Friday’s game at Circle will be competitive simply because of T-Bird scoring machine Jude Warren. And the Bullpup coaching staff was able to scout Free State extensively during the tournament and the Firebirds will be the most athletic team MHS has played this year. They are 11-4 and play a tremendously difficult schedule.
MHS continues to move up the 5A West ladder. Maize (17-0), Andover Central (15-1) and Wichita Heights (14-3) are ahead of the Bullpups. MHS is one of four teams at 12-4, the others being Salina Central, Ark City and Maize South. Salina Central still has games with Maize and Andover Central that it will be an underdog in, though the Andover Central game doesn’t count for seeding purposes.Ark City has Maize South as a stumbling block. Maize South goes up against Andover Central on Tuesday in a barnburner.
Ideally, the Bullpups would like to end up in the No. 4 spot as they probably won’t catch the Top 3.