McPherson High girls coach Chris Strathman doesn’t have to scramble to secure a scouting report for the Bullpups’ first-round opponent Thursday in the 22nd annual Mid America Classic.
The Bullpups have drawn Andale at 7:30 p.m., a rematch of a Jan. 13 blowout that MHS won convincingly, 70-27.
“Facing Andale again so soon can be tough, but it has happened before with our schedule and tourney,” said Strathman, whose team is only the No. 3 seed despite its 9-2 record. “Our girls know they are much better than they played here a couple of weeks ago, so we will have to be ready. We shot the ball really well that night and two of their best scorers really struggled, which led to the scoring margin being inflated. I expect a much-tougher game on Thursday from Andale and we will prepare for a little bit of everything from them defensively.”
The Indians are 5-5 on the year. They have had to rely on their defense since they average only 39.7 points a game, while giving up 40.5.
Should the Bullpups win, they would most likely play Olathe South in Friday’s 7:30 semifinals. That would be a championship game in any tournament, but the presence of unbeaten Manhattan has created a traffic jam of good teams at the top of the seedings.
“We have two tremendous 6A teams in Manhattan and Olathe South, currently No. 2 and 3 in the recent KBCA poll,” Strathman said. “Olathe South is such a sound defensive team and they run their stuff so well on offense, just always a very tough team. Manhattan had some very good players returning, but have added a junior, Christianna Carr, that is the No. 23-ranked player in the entire country according to ESPN.com recruiting profiles. They have been dominant in their games so far.”
Carr, whose father Chris played in the NBA and is now on the Kansas State women’s coaching staff, averages 14.8 points for an 8-0 Manhattan team whose closest game has been 13 points.
Manhattan figures to cruise and will play either Hays or Valley Center, a pair of 6-3 teams.
“Hays and Valley Center at the 4-5 matchup really is a toss-up, as the 4-5 matchup probably should be,” Strathman said. “On paper, that is clearly the best matchup of Day 1, one we will be watching closely as Hays is also a very possible sub-state opponent in March.”
Strathman believes the Mid America Classic is the crowned jewel of tournaments.
“We are just really thankful that we are hosting the 22nd MAC this year, hard to believe,” he said. “The McPherson Optimist Club always does such a great job of running things, and Mr. (Shane) Backhus has really helped with certain things, especially working on contracts for teams that are playing. The 2017 field is as difficult as it has been at the top, which creates an opportunity for us to play some tremendous competition if we can get past our first round on Thursday.”
• THURSDAY’S GAMES •
3:00 — Valley Center (6-3) vs. Hays (6-3)
4:30 — Manhattan (8-0) vs. Wichita Southeast (2-8)
6:00 — Olathe South (6-1) vs. Dodge City (3-6)
7:30 — Andale (5-5) vs. McPherson (9-2)