Chris Strathman says you never know what to expect in a third-place game.
What he got from his McPherson High girls in Saturday’s third-place game of the Mid America Classic was a gutty, gritty performance against a very good Class 6A team in Manhattan, outlasting the Indians 55-48 as it had the feeling of a championship game.
It was a nice bounce-back performance for the now 12-1 Bullpups, who had tasted defeat for the first time this season a day earlier.
“I was very happy with the effort they put forth,” Strathman said. “Sometimes you never know what you’re going to get out of a team in the third-place game because obviously you set your goal on playing in the finals. Sometimes you don’t always get that treat.”
The Bullpups led 18-14 after a quarter, but Manhattan grabbed the lead early in the second period and maintained it until the buzzer, when Emma Yowell drained a 3-pointer to give the Bullpups a 31-30 advantage.
Nothing changed after three quarters as MHS still held a tenuous one-point lead going into the fourth, but some strong Bullpup defense turned the tide. A 7-0 run after the game had been tied at 45-all pushed out the lead and MHS was able to make enough free throws to put it away.
“We had to come out ready to play and the girls did that,” Strathman said. “Paige Schmidt did a tremendous job on (Madison) Mittie taking away the catch-and-shoot opportunities. And we did a better job of helping out on the ball screens.”
Mittie had scored 14 first-half points, but Schmidt stuck to her like glue in the second half and held her to a single free throw for a team-high 15 points.
Taylor Robertson rebounded from an unlikely game on Friday with 18 points and courageous Mandi Cooks fought through health issues for 15 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes as Strathman did his best to try and limit her minutes.
Yowell chipped in with 10 points, hitting three clutch 3-pointers.
A key, Strathman said, was that MHS pulled within one in the rebounding battle, 29-28, after being down 19-10 at the half.
“I highlighted that after the game as one of the keys to the game,” Strathman said. “The other was holding Mittie to basically one free throw in the second half.”
MHS now gets some much-needed time off as its next action is Friday at Dodge City, which is another ranked 6A team — the third straight on the schedule.