SALINA — You live by the 3, you die by the 3.
For the McPherson High girls, their season-long staple of outstanding 3-point shooting disappeared like dust in the wind Wednesday night in the first round of the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament at the Bicentennial Center.
The Bullpups made an early trey, but it proved to be the only one in 20 attempts as they suffered a pre-mature end to their season with a 53-45 loss to Southeast Kansas League member Labette County.
MHS finished the season 20-3, while Labette County takes a 21-2 record into Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal game against undefeated and two-time defending champion Bishop Miege, which looked head and shoulders above the rest of the field as it had the only blowout of the first day.
It was a terribly disappointing ending to the season, as MHS made just 19 of 59 from the field and was outworked on the glass as a smaller Labette team snatched 43 rebounds to just 32 for the Bullpups, a stat that perhaps disappointed coach Chris Strathman the most.
"I look at the stat sheet and we were 1 of 20 from 3, we're outrebounded by 11," Strathman said. "They made the toughness plays… and you look at those two numbers for us, being outrebounded that bad and only making 1 of 20 from 3, it's a miracle we were tied at 45-all."
MHS, which had been down 43-32 with 6 minutes to go, roared back to tie the game with a 13-2 run with 2:11 to go, capped by two Kamryn Collins free throws. But Labette scored the final eight points as the lid covered the Bullpup basket.
The teams had played in a phone booth in the first half, with the Bullpups squeaking out a 23-22 advantage. But wondrous Labette sophomore Tristan Gegg keyed a 9-2 run to start the second half with seven points and the Grizzlies lived off that advantage until MHS put together its only run of the game to knot the score at 45.
"We tied it up after a great run, a great effort by our kids to come back, made the plays defensively and converted on the offensive end to bring us back," Strathman said. "They got a couple of drives to the basket and a couple of rebounds. They got to the foul line and they did a great job down the stretch. Credit to Labette, they're a very, very good team."
Gegg, who shoots it from anywhere on the floor, was sensational with 30 points, but it was 17 clutch points by unheralded Clancie Sorrell that won the game, not to mention her 10 rebounds as she simply was relentless despite giving away some size. MHS did a great job on the Grizzlies' other star guard, Erica Gartner, holding her to no field goals and just three points.
MHS' Taylor Robertson, who plays with Gegg on a summer AAU team, scored 15 points, but was just 7 of 20 from the field. Mandi Cooks added 13, but no other Bullpup scored six.
Strathman said it was a bittersweet season. While it was 20 wins and a state trip, the final goal was not reached of playing on the weekend.
"We lost to two 6A qualifying teams Shawnee Mission Northwest and Dodge City and obviously tonight," Strathman said. "A 20-win season and qualifying for state is a really, really good year. For us the bar is just a little bit higher. That's just the way it is in McPherson and that's kind of the way we're used to it. We're going to have a high bar next year and hopefully we can make to the Final Four and see what happens."
The Bullpups lose seniors Ashtyn Schieferecke, Paige Schmidt and Ally Ulsaker, so the other nine players who suited up will be back next year.
In the other half of the bracket, undefeated and No. 2 seed Wellington was given a push before getting past DeSoto 62-57, while No. 3 seed Paola needed overtime to outlast Abilene, 62-60.
MHS (45) — Yowell 1-5, 0-0, 2; Schmidt 0-2, 0-0, 0; Schieferecke 3-9, 0-2, 6; Robertson 7-20, 0-0, 15; Cooks 5-9, 3-4, 13; Collins 2-12, 2-2, 6; Bruner 1-1, 0-0, 2; Ulsaker 0-1, 1-2, 1. Totals — 19-59, 6-10, 45. 3-pointers — Robertson 1.
Labette County (53) — Gegg 11-21, 6-8, 30; Gartner 0-4, 3-4, 3; Hentzen 0-4, 0-0, 0; Dean 0-6, 0-0, 0; C. Sorrell 5-11, 7-10, 17; Burk 0-2, 1-3, 1; A. Sorrell 1-4, 0-0, 2. Totals — 17-52, 17-25, 53. 3-pointers — Gegg 2.