McPherson High girls basketball coach Chris Strathman knows that going up against an opponent coached by a former Bullpup will be fundamentally sound.
When the Bullpups open their season Friday at El Dorado, they’ll be facing a Wildcat team that begins its second year under former MHS standout Jordan Crawford.
Tipoff is 6 p.m., with pre-game on 96.7 KBBE-FM starting at 5:40. Chris Swick will have the play-by-play call.
El Dorado was 5-16 in Crawford’s first year, but he’s added a couple of girls who are good athletes in other sports that are going out for basketball after not playing last year.
“We know they are returning a few starters from last season and that they have added a couple players that they will apparently be counting on for heavy minutes,” said Strathman, whose team is coming off a 17-5 season only to miss the state tournament for only the second time in the last 20 years when it lost a last-second sub-state title game to Buhler. “They have pretty good size inside and can disrupt some post play with their length. We expect El Dorado to be much improved this year as coach Crawford does a nice job with the girls. I think they will be much improved in his second year with the program.”
The Bullpups have a wealth of experience returning, including first-team AVCTL Division III picks Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks, both sophomores. But Strathman has as many as 10 players he’s comfortable with.
“The bright spots have been a group that overall has been very eager to learn and to work to get better every single day,” Strathman said. “We have a lot of returning players that have improved from last year, no huge surprises really so far but it is still great to see their progress.”
While the Bullpups — ranked No. 2 in Class 4A Division I in the preseason — could be in midseason form before December is over, there’s still some areas he believes the team can get better at.
“We really need to get better at talking on the floor, especially at the defensive end,” he said. “We are just OK defensively right now, but this team could be really good at limiting teams if we can just get total commitment. We have to be better for when we have those nights that we just can't seem to put the ball in the basket.”
Robertson and Cooks are expected to be joined in the lineup by Ashtyn Schieferecke, Paige Schmidt and Emma Yowell. Schieferecke is entering her third year as a starter, while Yowell started off and on last year. The Bullpup bench is long, as there’s little fall-off when Strathman goes about 10-deep.
The Bullpup coach said he’s anxious to see how Friday plays out.
“I will just say our girls are going to be very excited to play an opponent other than their teammates in practice,” Strathman said. “It is a league game right off the bat, so it does hold some extra importance from some past season-opening games.”