Another memorable Mid America Classic

By Steve Sell
February 01, 2016

The 21st annual Mid America Classic will forever be known for its defense.

It started with the first three games on Thursday where no team scored more than 44 points to win and it was topped by Saturday’s defensive slugfest of a championship game as Shawnee Mission Northwest edged Olathe East 33-31 in overtime, a game that finished in controversy.

Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Emmalee Rose was fouled as she tried a shot in the lane at the end of overtime with the game tied. Olathe East, predictably, thought there wasn’t a foul or that the attempt came after the buzzer.

The people I talked with at courtside after the game were in complete agreement that the shot came before the buzzer — 0.2 was put back on the clock — and there also was agreement there was indeed a foul on the play. There was a lot of contact, but sometimes game officials choose to ignore it under the unwritten rule of “let the players decide the outcome.” I can understand the frustration from the Olathe East coaches, players and fans, as it was indeed a tough way for the tournament to be decided.

But I thought they got it right. Maybe the execution of figuring out how much time to put on the clock was too lengthy, but in my mind the correct call was made. I still believe a game should be called at the end just as it is in the beginning — that’s why there’s rules.

It was a typical physical Kansas City-type game. It seems like when we get schools from the Metro area for both the boys and girls’ tournaments, games are low-scoring and methodical. There’s a lot more zone played back East and I think it’s good for McPherson’s teams to see it, because most of the teams the Bullpups play are primarily man-to-man.

While McPherson High’s girls didn’t win the championship, I thought they showed a lot of grit in coming back to outlast ranked 6A school Manhattan on Saturday for third place, 55-48. To be honest, that game was far more entertaining than the championship game as it was 45-all before the Bullpups closed strong.

This tournament is going to be a huge benefit for the Bullpups. They had come in undefeated, but faced more adversity in these three days as they have all season. Standout sophomore Mandi Cooks was obviously still not 100 percent, but really gutted through the three games. I thought she could easily have made the All-Tournament Top 5, as could teammate Ashtyn Schieferecke, who was solid throughout. Taylor Robertson — the tournament’s top scorer — did make the team, but this weekend was good experience for her from the standpoint she went up against a physical defense on Friday in the semifinals and simply had trouble getting shots off. She showed her mettle with an excellent game on Saturday, which means she’s able to shake off a rare off game and follow it up with a good one.

Shawnee Mission South, which came in as the No. 8 seed, wound up taking fifth place, so that meant the Bullpups faced three of the top four other teams in the field. I knew after the Raiders’ game with the Bullpups — and watching all four first-round games — they probably would take fifth. Their 2-8 record coming in was an aberration as they had some really nice players.

Hats off to the McPherson Optimist Club for a well-run tournament. First-time co-directors Jerry Fithian and Kendall Shaw admirably filled the large shoes of Bob Baldwin and Dave Chartier, who had been the directors since the inception in 1996. They were still around this weekend to lend their wisdom and helped in any way they could. Special thanks also go to Carol Swenson and Lowell Schmidt for all their hard work with the stats, with Lowell having pulled ironman duty by also running the stats program for the boys’ tourney as well.

It was a long two weeks — including the college I covered 30 games in 12 days — but I wouldn’t trade these two weeks for anything. It’s the best time of the year.