MHS at Buhler on Friday — Round 2

By Steve Sell
February 25, 2016
Kendall Shaw

This is going to be wild.

It’s the final night of the regular season and the schedule-maker saved the best for last — the second meeting of arch-rivals McPherson High and Buhler on the Crusaders’ home court.

Tipoff for the girls is 6 p.m., but fans had better get there an hour before the game if they want a good seat. The boys should go about 7:40. Those who can’t make it can hear all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Chris Swick on the call.

The boys’ game has huge ramifications. MHS is 9-0 in league play and wants to win the  title outright. The Bullpups earned a share on Tuesday with their demolition of Augusta and it was their 14th in 21 years under coach Kurt Kinnamon, their eighth in the last nine years.

Buhler is 8-1 in the league and would love to burst the Bullpups’ bubble. The Crusaders pushed MHS to the limit at the Roundhouse before succumbing, 68-61.

Given all that, it makes for state-like-atmosphere. And, oh by the way, we could do all of this again next week in the sub-state in Ulysses.

“They are playing very well right now,” Kinnamon said. (Jace) Williams and (Noah) Webster are two of the best players in the state. I expect a raucous atmosphere and a huge crowd. It will be a lot of fun with a state championship-game feel.”

The 6-6 Williams already has committed to Washburn and is one of the state’s most versatile athletes, while Webster was dynamic against the Bullpups in the first meeting with his penetration and shooting. It could come down to how Buhler’s support players step up.

The Bullpups, of course, are 18-1 on the season and ranked No. 1 in the state, which puts a big bullseye on their back.

In the girls’ game, MHS is 9-0 in the league and 17-2 overall. It already has the league title sewn up, its 19th in the last 22 years and ninth in a row.

The Bullpups scuttled Buhler 53-18 in the first meeting, but MHS coach Chris Strathman says that was an aberration.

“Buhler is playing much better basketball the second time through league and also played well at the Salina Invitational as they knocked off a good Abilene team on their way to the finals,” Strathman said. “(All-Stater Jessica) Steffen is going to get her looks, we just need to make sure they are tough looks as much as possible.  The supporting cast is the reason they have improved so much.  They really understand better what they need to do to play their roles.”

Steffen, the Yale signee, is one of the state’s best players and going up against the Bullpups will ramp up her game as she’s been a focal point of the series the last four years. She’ll hoist the team on her back if she has to. She has an uncanny knack of getting to the foul line as she constantly draws fouls with her attacking style.

Strathman said this is a good preparation for his team heading into sub-state as the environment is going to be against it.  

“It should be a great atmosphere, which makes it a lot of fun,” he said. “Our girls need to embrace that and be mentally tough on the road, but I am much more concerned with the Buhler team and their improvement.”