MHS cagers finally back home Friday

By Steve Sell
January 05, 2017
Kendall Shaw

There was barely a ripple when it was announced that Circle and Rose Hill would be swapping divisions in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League.

Circle moved up to Division III, while Rose Hill dropped down to D-IV.

What that meant, though, is that McPherson High’s girls basketball team gained a stronger foe to contend with.

Circle brings an undefeated record into the Roundhouse on Friday in what will be the T-Birds’ 2017 debut as well as a return home for the Bullpups, who have played three straight away games dating back to last month.

The girls tip off at 6 p.m., with the boys to follow. Follow all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM beginning approximately 5:55 with Voice of the Bullpups Matt Cole.

“Circle’s girls are going to be very good test for us on Friday,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose team has won four straight and moved to 6-1 overall on Tuesday with a 52-31 victory over arch-rival Buhler. “They have a good mix of athletes and shooters. Circle runs a lot of nice things for their best scorers, so we will have to be locked in and ready defensively.”

The game could possibly match up the two top shooters in D-III. Circle's Carissa Beck, a 5-6 sophomore, can fill it up with the best.

“She is averaging about 18 or 19 points and five 3-pointers per game,” said Strathman, noting the Bullpups will have to track her every move. “They have other girls that can score, but she is a very good shooter. They are very balanced with everyone else — good post play and very good, athletic drivers that draw help and contact if we get out of position.”

Strathman did not speculate whether his team would have back top scorer Taylor Robertson, out with a broken pinkie finger. She was in a cast during the holiday break, but there’s a chance she could be ready soon.

Without Robertson, the Bullpups still handled Buhler on Tuesday thanks to 21 points by Mandi Cooks and a turnover-inducing defense.

Meanwhile, the MHS boys will forever take Circle seriously as the T-Birds pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Kansas history back in 2013 when they shocked the Bullpups 45-44 in Towanda right after MHS had won the McPherson Invitational. At the time, Circle had only one win. The following year the Bullpups avenged that loss with a 66-32 rout, the last time the teams have met.

MHS came close to putting together 32 minutes on Tuesday with a 68-65 victory over Buhler, a game it led by 14 points going into the fourth quarter. Circle has yet to step on the floor in 2017.

"I think it is a bit of an advantage to have played on Tuesday to get back into the flow of game action," said Bullpup coach Kurt Kinnamon, whose team is 4-3 on the season.

The T-Birds feature one of the state's best players in guard Cal Hartley.

"Cal Hartley is a tremendous shooter with great range," Kinnamon said. "We are going to have to be able to limit him. They have a 6-7 post kid that does a good job of cleaning up around the basket and they have a couple of athletic wings that go to the glass hard."

Every game is important now as MHS currently is the No. 4 seed for the McPherson Invitational. They are two games back in the loss column of Wichita Heights, Manhattan and Maize. Pairings will be announced after next Tuesday's games. The Bullpups also are behind Hays and Buhler in the sub-state seeding.