This week is going to be one of the milestone moments in McPherson High’s tradition-rich basketball history.
Of course the focus is on Friday night’s games at the Roundhouse with fellow blue blood program Bishop Miege. But if those games are No. 1, tonight’s games at Derby are No. 1A.
It’s the beginning of a brutal non-conference schedule for the Bullpups, as a concerted effort has been made to play only the best teams available.
Derby and MHS used to be in the same division of the AVCTL and before that played two games a year in the old Ark Valley. It’s been a while since they have met, but it’s a series that has been renewed and hopefully continued for years to come.
Derby is two classes higher than MHS and while it would probably be detrimental to play the Panthers in football, basketball is a different story.
The Derby girls have two of the best players in the state, one of them 6-6 center Kennedy Brown, who is a D-I recruit. They have several other solid players and this game will tell MHS in a hurry where it is in the pecking order. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers are playing on the final Saturday in March.
The Derby boys will be outrageously athletic as Nyjee Wright may be the best guard MHS will go up against this season (certainly the quickest) and the Panthers have the size and bulk to be a dominant team on the boards.
The only drawback for Derby’s teams is that this will be their first games of the season while the Bullpups got their feet wet in a couple of walkovers against El Dorado.
Going on the road is never easy and Derby’s dimly lit gym— unless it has new lights since we last played there — could provide a challenge as MHS' shooters will have to acclimate to the conditions.
Then on Friday are perhaps the two-most anticipated regular-season and non-tournament games perhaps since I’ve been covering the Bullpups since 1979.
McPherson and Miege are the gold standard of Kansas basketball. To some it’s almost good vs. evil, as the Bullpups represent the best of public school basketball while Miege is the flagship program of private schools. A recent column by my friend Brad Hallier of The Hutchinson News stoked the flames of the never-ending controversy of public-vs.-private, but I know the Bullpups are looking beyond that and just looking forward to playing another rarefied program like themselves.
The Miege girls do have some terrific players to replace, but you know veteran coach Terry English is no stranger to reloading. Meanwhile, the Miege boys have a program that could possibly compete nationally as many observers around the state believe the Stags are the best team in Kansas regardless of class.
For Miege, this is a wonderful opportunity to play in what will be an extremely hostile environment — probably the most hostile. I’m sure English and boys coach Rick Zych will say these games may help their teams more than any other they play before sub-state.
I’ve already heard a lot of chatter that Friday night’s crowd will rival those from the 1960s and 1970s when the fire marshal would look the other way and fans would be lined up 5-deep around the Roundhouse ring. We’ve had a few of those “old Roundhouse crowds” periodically since I’ve been here — especially in the 1990s when the MHS teams combined to win nine state championships — but Friday should be unlike any crowd we've seen in a long time.