ULYSSES — McPherson High’s girls are back where they belong.
After a one-year respite from the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament — and only their second in 20 years — the Bullpups will be returning to Salina next week.
MHS, the prohibitive favorite in the Ulysses sub-state, did get more of a challenge from Buhler in the third meeting of the year between the teams tonight in the championship game, but it was again the Bullpups’ balance that overcame All-Stater Jessica Steffen, who did for once receive some help from Morgan Rohr.
MHS, up 20 points at one stage in the third quarter, saw the lead get down to 10 before coming away with a 59-43 victory.
The Bullpups will take a 20-2 record to state, where there will be two undefeated teams in defending state champion Miege and surprising Wellington.
MHS is one of three 20-2 teams, so it could be a No. 3, 4 or 5 seed. Paola and Labette County are the other 20-2 teams. The pairings should be released Sunday morning.
The Bullpups used a 13-4 run to close out the first quarter with a 19-9 lead and it steadily increased as they did a good job on Steffen in the first half, holding her to five points to lead 34-20.
The lead reached 20, 40-20, before Buhler made a run, with Steffen hitting a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to make it a 13-point game. MHS, though, closed the game strong behind nine final-period points by super sub Kamryn Collins after Buhler did get as close as 10.
“They really made a good run at us,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose team had routed the Crusaders twice during the regular season. “So were able to hold off their runs. They have some good players and obviously they’re going to make a run and they did. I thought Buhler competed really well and didn’t leave anything on the floor tonight. My hat’s off to them.”
Steffen, whose two free throws in the final seconds kept the Bullpups from going to state last year, scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half, but MHS made her work for them. Rohr had a nice game in her career finale with 13, but no other Crusader had more than four.
“Steffen is going to get her points,” Strathman said. “Holding her to 15 is not bad as much offense as they run through her.”
Collins was again immense for the Bullpups with 17 points, which included three of MHS’ eight 3-pointers. Taylor Robertson added 10 as MHS made it to state even though she was limited to 14 points in two games. But again, she did other things to get her teammates involved.
Buhler finished the year 8-14 and graduates both Steffen and Rohr, along with Chloe Reiss.
MHS (59) — Yowell 2 0-0 6; Schmidt 1 2-2 4; Collins 6 2-3 17; Schieferecke 3 0-0 6; Robertson 4 0-0 10; Cooks 4 1-2 9; Schrader 1 0-0 3; Bruner 1 0-2 2; Ulsaker 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 7-12, 59. 3-pointers — Collins 3, Yowell 2, Robertson 2, Schrader 1.
Buhler (43) — Steffen 5 4-4 15; Schultz 2 0-0 4; Stutterheim 0 2-2 2; Rohr 4 3-4 13; White 2 0-0 4; Cunday 1 0-0 2; Reiss 1 0-0 3. Totals — 15 9-10 43. 3-pointers — Rohr 2, Steffen 1, Reiss 1.