When you consider I cover about 50 high school basketball games a year and I’ve done that for more than 40 years, simple math means I’ve witnessed about 2,000 games, give or take a few.
I can honestly say after watching defending Class 4A Division I state champion and No. 1-ranked Bishop Miege dismantle McPherson High’s boys 87-54 on Friday (MHS’ worst Roundhouse loss ever), I’ve never seen a better prep team.
I talked with some longtime Bullpup observers over the weekend and, of course, the 1977 Wichita Heights Falcons was the first team that came to everyone’s mind. I posted last week that “in no way” could Miege beat Heights, the consensus best team in Kansas history by those in the know.
But after conversations, maybe I was too quick to judge.
It was pointed out as good as Heights was, you have to remember that 6-9 center Antoine Carr was just in his formative stages that year as he was just a sophomore. He was nowhere near the dominant force he became by his senior year and later at Wichita State.
Darnell Valentine, who went on to KU and later played in the NBA, would be the best player on the floor in a mythical Heights-Miege matchup. I was at KU when Valentine was a freshman and I remember thinking to myself, “gosh, he must have just dominated at the high school level.”
This Miege team, though, has it all. All you need to know is that McPherson High shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, a highly creditable 45 percent from 3-point and committed just 4 turnovers. And all it had to show for it was a 17-point deficit.
Just consider this: Farm-boy strong 6-5 forward Joseph Gleason wrecked the Bullpups’ chances to win state last year when he scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Stags to a 69-59 victory. You would think he would be even more dominating as a senior.
However, Gleason played only 8 minutes and was in at mop-up time. I know a lot of coaches that would give anything to have Gleason as a focal point of their team.
Josh Early, a strapping 6-7 sophomore, reportedly is already drawing looks from major schools. He also played limited minutes (just 12) as he can’t crack the lineup. He scored 7 points in his short time.
Jeremiah Garrett, who seems to be turbo-charged as he races up and down the floor, comes off the bench as well. In his limited time (12 minutes) he scored 10 points and was a defensive disruptor.
And Miege doesn’t even have Bol Bol anymore.
The 6-11 Bol transferred before this season. He’s a Division I talent and shot-blocking fiend.
But honestly, the Stags might be better without him, as difficult as that is to imagine. Bol took his time getting up the floor last year, but now the Stags are able to play at warped speed.
Point guard Semaj Ray, who started two years ago when the Stags lost to the Bullpups in the state semifinals, is more confident and much stronger. He turned it over just once in 23 minues and scored 15 points.
Francesco Badocchi is the Stags’ underrated player. Listed at 6-6 (he looked taller than that), he has a silky game that is effortless. He had 5 blocked shots and missed only one shot from the floor in scoring 13 points.
Ezekiel Lopes was the X-factor. Now I’m not sure if he can shoot like he did on Friday all season, but he drained 6 of 10 from 3-point and scored 22 points, 20 of those in the deciding first half. He was nothing more than a JV player last year and MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon admitted he was not on the Bullpups’ scouting report since this was Miege’s first game and he’d never appeared on film.
Then you have the most heralded player, 6-8 sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. I thought MHS’ Ben Pyle did a super job on him, holding him to 10 points and 6 rebounds. But you can tell he’s a future star once he gets some weight and strength because he has a great skill-set.
And don’t forget Landry Weber, the cerebral guard who had no turnovers in 24 minutes. How often do the Bullpups have a game where they force the two starting guards into just one combined turnover?
For all their individual talent, Miege coach Rick Zych has done a great job of developing team chemistry. You would think egos would clash, but the Stags played flawlessly and everybody got involved. And defensively trying to shoot and pass against that length is difficult as teams are going to have a hard time scoring on them.
I can tell you right now, the rest of the season will be for whichever Class 4A Division I team can make it to the finals to play Miege. I can’t imagine anybody beating this team because if one or even two players are off, there are others to pick up the slack.
McPherson can only hope it’s the team that can be there at the end with Miege. I’m sure Kinnamon will devise a different plan of attack, because man-to-man there’s no comparison and that’s no slight to the Bullpups. The Stags are just that good.
Maybe the best ever.