McPherson High basketball coaches Chris Strathman and Kurt Kinnamon are hoping that Friday’s season openers are the calm before the storm.
The Bullpups kick off the season hosting El Dorado at the Roundhouse, with the girls starting at 6 p.m., and the boys tipping off approximately 7:30.
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The Bullpups can’t afford to look past the Wildcats as they have two monster matchups next week, Tuesday at Class 6A power Derby and Friday at the Roundhouse against Miege, the defending 4A D-I state champion for both boys and girls.
“We are anxious to get started with our games and very excited to play on Friday at home,” said Strathman, whose team is coming off a 20-3 season and trip to the Class 4A Division I Tournament, where it lost in the first round to Labette County. “El Dorado does return some nice players with pretty good size, highlighted by the 6'2 (Caedyn) Reinhart girl.”
The Wildcats are coached by former McPherson High and McPherson College star Jordan Crawford. They improved to 7-14 last season and this figures to be his best team yet. In addition to Reinhardt, the Wildcats return the Howlands (Sidney and Jolie), both of whom have good size. Amber Henley is a 5-3 point guard who has to be able to handle the Bullpups’ pressure defense.
Strathman is assured of four starters — seniors Jordan Bruner and Emma Yowell, and juniors Mandi Cooks at Taylor Robertson. There’s spirited competition going on for the fifth spot.
“We are pleased with our versatility on offense and defense, as we have a good mix of speed and size, and length inside,” Strathman said. “We need to continue to stress the fundamentals and get better at the little things that will make us successful in the long run. I have been pleased overall with our effort and focus in practice, hopefully we can transfer those positives to the game floor starting on Friday night.”
For Kinnamon’s boys, he’ll be unveiling almost a brand-new starting lineup as Ben Pyle is the only returning starter from last year's 23-2 team that took second in the state.
But Jake Alexander, Drew Labertew and Wyatt Seidl all logged heavy minutes last year and are stepping right in. Thomas Diggs, who didn’t play last year due to a sore knee, will round out the lineup. Mason Alexander, who has transferred back to MHS after being at Sunrise Christian Academy last year, has to sit out the first two games due to state transfer rules.
“The kids are ready to play,” Kinnamon said. “It will be nice to play against someone who is not able to play each of your sets because they know them. El Do is a team that basically returns everyone who started last year, so they are actually more experienced than we are. We are still figuring out rotations and who can play in what position. I have been pleased with our defensive pressure. We need to do a better job of using our athleticism and getting up the floor for easy transition baskets.”
El Dorado, 4-17 last year, is led by 6-2 sophomore Jarin Koehler, who is the top returning scorer at 7.2 points a game.