ULYSSES — McPherson High and Buhler are separated by just 15 minutes, but 4 hours away on Saturday they’ll determine a representative to the Class 4A Division I State Girls Basketball Tournament.
The Bullpups did what they were supposed to do on Thursday with a running-clock 57-27 victory over three-win Ulysses, while Buhler grinded out a 48-38 victory.
The third meeting of the year between the Bullpups and Crusaders will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday. MHS has won the first two meetings by an average of 29 points, but it was Buhler that knocked off the Bullpups last year to deny them their 19th state trip in 20 years.
MHS takes a 19-2 record into Saturday while Buhler is 8-13.
The Bullpups had no trouble with the homestanding Tigers, scoring the first 11 points of the game. Ulysses, as so many teams have done, junked it up on top MHS scorer Taylor Robertson and accomplished its goal of holding her in check as she scored just four points.
But Mandi Cooks had her way inside with 18 points, Kamryn Collins came off the bench for 14 and Ashtyn Schieferecke chipped in with 11.
“We were able to speed them up in the first half, but didn’t get as many turnovers as I thought we’d force,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “Sometimes the pressure forced them to take quick shots and we wanted to speed the pace up and get more possessions. So I guessed we achieved that goal.”
Strathman said he fully expected some type of junk defense on Robertson. However unlike most games, the Bullpups didn’t make the Tigers pay as their 3-point shooting took the night off.
“We had been shooting the ball so much better recently,” Strathman said. “Part of that, I thought, was that we were getting pretty comfortable against that 1-3 and chase defense we see all the time... we’ve seen it so much we should be pretty comfortable by now.”
The Bullpups and Crusaders played an epic last year and the outcome will come down to whether or not MHS can contain All-Stater Jessica Steffen, who has averaged only 12 points in the first two games, though she’s capable of going for 30.
MHS (57) — Schmidt 2 0-0 4; Schieferecke 4 3-4 11; Collins 6 0-0 14; Robertson 2 0-0 4; Cooks 7 4-4 18; Yowell 1 2-2 4; Bruner 1 0-2 2. Totals — 23 9-12 57. 3-pointers — Collins 2.
Ulysses (27) — Bauer 1 0-0 2; Kenny 3 3-4 10; Gomez 1 0-0 2; Oglevie 1 0-0 2; Payne 1 2-2 4; Galindo 1 4-4 6; Ballesteros 0 1-2 1. Totals — 8 10-12 27. 3-pointers — Kenny 1.