Now that all is right in the world again with the McPherson High girls basketball team, the Bullpups face a road littered with potholes in the Class 4A Division I State Tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
The Bullpups, 20-2, begin state play in the 8:15 p.m. game Wednesday against Labette County of Altamont, which matches MHS’ 20-2 record. Catch all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Chris Swick on the call, with pre-game 15 minutes prior to tipoff.
The Bullpups are returning to state this year after missing last season, which was only the second such instance in 20 years.
Labette also has been a team that has made frequent trips to state, though it hasn’t enjoyed much success.
“Labette is a fixture at the 4A state tournament, so they are definitely accustomed to the Bi-Center,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “We will have to be ready to defend the 3-point line and drives, but also handle their various zone traps that they throw at teams to disrupt rhythm. They had to defeat a good Chanute team on Saturday, as that was their third time playing them and won all three in close games. Labette's two losses are to Paola, very good team also at state, and Pittsburg.”
It’s all about the guards for the Grizzlies.
“They are 20-2 in large part because of really good guard play,” Strathman said. “They really get out in transition and fire away from the 3-point line. Their inside players are also very capable, they play their roles and do a really nice job of finishing plays when they have opportunities. Their two main guards are Erica Gartner and Tristan Gegg. Gartner started against us as a freshman at state in 2013. She was good then and has definitely gotten better, just a confident swagger to her game. Gegg is one of the top scoring sophomore guards in the state. She has a very quick release with the green light to shoot from 28 feet, no exaggeration, either. Those are our main concerns as far as guarding, but we also know they have other key players that we must also defend.”
The winner of this slugfest is almost assured of playing two-time defending champion Miege, which has rolled to 22 straight wins with very few close games along the way.
“Miege comes in as a heavy favorite to win a third straight,” Strathman said. “They return their entire backcourt for a third year together and that is where it all starts for them. We hope we get a chance to play them in the semifinals, but we will have to beat a very good Labette County team to get there. On our side of the bracket also includes tournament surprise Andale. They pulled off a stunner when they beat Andover Central in the sub-state semifinals and then got past Augusta as well. Winners of five in a row, Andale has really started playing well at the right time.”
The 4A bracket also is loaded on the other side.
“Wellington is also undefeated and very good,” Strathman said. “They don’t have the tourney experience that Miege or Paola do, but they do have some outstanding players, including Nebraska signee Grace Mitchell. Paola is an excellent team as well and has one of 4A’s best players in Morgan Laudan, who signed with Emporia State. She has been a key contributor since she was a freshman. Abilene is a familiar foe for us, as we played them before Christmas. They feature two Division II signees, (Belle) Barbieri (Fort Hays State) and (Cara) Donley (Washburn). They are both very good and really know how to score and get others involved as well. DeSoto has also had a nice year and we all expected them to make it as well.”