Classic semifinal game will feel like the finals

By Steve Sell
January 27, 2017

Tonight’s Mid America Classic 7:30 semifinal game between McPherson High’s girls and Olathe South is going to have a championship-game feel.

That shows the strength of the 22nd annual Classic.

Olathe South comes into the game having never lost in the Classic as it ran its winning streak here to 13 games on Thursday with a rout of Dodge City.

The Falcons and Bullpups will be locking horns for the fifth time, only the second time though in the semifinals. The other three times the game has been for the championship.

McPherson advanced on Thursday with a wipeout of Andale and coach Chris Strathman was able to limit the starters’ minutes because of the largesse of the score.

The Bullpups have been competitive in all four previous games with the Falcons — 52-38, 63-60, 43-35 and 56-41. However, this might be the best chance they’ve had to finally blemish South’s record.

And did I say this was a semifinal game?

Manhattan is the No. 1 seed and certainly played the part on Thursday by systematically taking apart overmatched Wichita Southeast. A lot of hype was lavished on junior transfer Christianna Carr — the daughter of former NBA player Chris Carr, now on staff at Kansas State — but in the Indians’ 28-point first-quarter eruption on Thursday, Carr did not even score. She got into the flow after that and finished with 14 points, displaying many skills.

But Manhattan has a tremendous team and is far more than Carr. It shoots the 3-ball well, defends like a fortress and is strong inside. I don’t see it having any trouble getting past Valley Center, which quite honestly was better than I thought. Moundridge High grad Trent Preheim is the Hornets’ coach and has his team executing on the offensive end with some nice ball movement.

Getting back to the game that is more like a championship game, the Bullpups must keep South off the boards and stop whirling dervish point guard Makayla Gooch, who controls the game at the point. She’s not a big scorer, but quite a creator and has the quickness to blow by defenders and then dish for easy layups.

I think for McPherson to win and make the finals, it has to most importantly rebound the basketball. Other than Mandi Cooks, the Bullpups don’t have a lot of size, while the Falcons have big players in waves. Also, MHS has to continue to knock down 3-pointers, which is such a key to its offense. The long ball is a staple and given the Falcons’ interior defense, I don’t see the Bullpups scoring a lot in the paint.

Hopefully a big crowd will breathe life into what was a quiet Roundhouse last night, which was understandable considering the first-round matchups. Other than the first game, it was total domination by the favorites.