A 5-1 start and No. 3 state ranking.
Not bad for a month’s work.
That’s what McPherson High’s girls basketball team managed to accomplish before Christmas as it heads into the holidays riding a three-game winning streak, all of the games decided in the first half.
The only loss was to Miege, a game the Bullpups were down 36-11 at the half before outscoring the Stags by 8 in the second half and it wasn’t because of Miege subbing in reserves. MHS did a good deal of that second-half work against its frontline players and Bullpup coach Chris Strathman admitted Tuesday night that he’d like to have that first half back to see just how competitive the game would have been.
The Bullpups did learn a lot from that game about handling pressure defense and they have definitely stored that in their memory bank should the teams meet again in Salina if they make it that far.
The Bullpups have received the expected contributions from the standout junior duo of Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks. Robertson is one of the state’s most prolific scorers and has added to her game from last year in that she’s scoring more at the basket and she’s a much better rebounder than her first two seasons.
Cooks provides the inside threat and what has caught my eye is her passing, especially Tuesday when she had good looks, but made passes for better ones.
Emma Yowell is the other returning starter and she’s starting to find her 3-point stroke, in addition to playing her usual aggressive defense.
New starters Jordan Bruner and Riley Hett have flourished with additional time. Both have really excelled on the defensive end, key cogs in MHS’ pressure defense that has led to early blowouts. Hett at times has been able to knock down the 3-pointer, which is a staple in the Bullpups’ system.
Strathman has been afforded the luxury the last few games of getting his subs in more. Hannah Hageman is providing energy off the bench and in time is going to be a good scorer. Jaycee Burghart has knocked down some 3s and also provided some good minutes.
This is an interesting roster mix. Bruner and Emma Yowell are the only seniors, and of course Robertson and Cooks the only juniors. Thank goodness for a deep sophomore class, one reason the junior varsity has surpassed the 50-win-in-row mark.
Division III may not provide the Bullpups with too many tests — though it’s always a challenge to play well away from the friendly Roundhouse confines — but Andale, Great Bend and Newton will be very strong non-conference challenges and the Mid America Classic is going to be loaded.
The sub-state at this time tilts in favor of the Bullpups, who no doubt want to get back to Salina and avenge last year’s early exit when they lost to Labette County.