Shane Backhus’ philosophy as McPherson High Athletic Director is to schedule the Bullpup sports teams against the very best competition possible.
From bringing in top teams for the McPherson Invitational and Mid America Classic to competing in the Hy-Vee Shootout the past four years— not to mention scheduling a team like Gardner-Edgerton for football — Backhus surely is a coach’s dream.
It would be easy for Backhus to schedule the Bullpups against teams they basically are assured of defeating. But that doesn’t help the McPherson teams prepare for postseason play. That’s what it’s all about, how the teams do in sub-state, regional and state competition.
The MHS coaches, I’m sure, applaud Backhus' contention that scheduling the good teams will help the Bullpups in the long run. You don’t think MHS girls coach Chris Strathman and boys coach Kurt Kinnamon aren’t excited about the Bullpups’ final appearance in the Hy-Vee Shootout? A chance to be on TV and playing some of the best teams Missouri has to offer? They’ve both been preparing for these games from the moment practice started in November. No matter the outcomes, they know they're not likely to see too many teams this caliber, in the boys' case this will probably be the best team they face all year.
On Wednesday, the regular-season basketball schedule for the next two years was announced, as games played next year will be flipped the following year as it’s a home-and-home contract.
The most exciting news is that Bishop Miege will be coming to the Roundhouse and all eyes in Kansas will be on those matchups. Miege’s girls, under the legendary Terry English, are unequaled in terms of championship accomplishments. The Stag boys’ history pales in comparison, but they played MHS in last year’s state tournament semifinals and since then have added 6-11 Bol Bol, the son of the late 7-6 NBA player Manute Bol. He’s a sophomore this year, so by next year he should be maturing into a big-time college recruit. He’ll be on display in the Hy-Vee Shootout this week, so I’m sure Kinnamon will be paying close attention.
Ditto for Strathman as Miege's girls, likewise, are in the Hy-Vee. They have won back-to-back state championships and have been the consensus No. 1 so far this season in Class 4A Division I.
Backhus didn't settle with just adding Miege. The Bullpups renew their basketball rivalries with Derby and Newton, conjuring up memories of the original Ark Valley League. MHS' girls and Newton had some legendary battles through the years (the Bullpups won the state championship in 1982 by beating their league rival). The MHS boys had tremendous tussles with both Derby and Newton, especially in the 1980s, and it's good to see those teams back on.
As usual, there will be top teams in both midseason tournaments, which always are among the best in Kansas in terms of talent and organization. The Invitational is all 6A and 5A except for the Bullpups, while the girls' Classic includes four 6A schools.
Kudos to Backhus for continuing to schedule only the best teams for the Bullpups to play. You only get better by playing better teams.