This was supposed to be the year it all ended.
Olathe South, which had gone 4-for-4 in winning Mid America Classic championships in the past, rolled into town on Thursday flying somewhat under the radar, if a 6-1 record and No. 3 ranking in Class 6A is considered under the radar.
The considerable hype surrounded unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Manhattan and its new star player Christianna Carr, the daughter of former NBA player Chris Carr, who has been receiving national publicity because of her talent. Even Olathe South coach Mike Allen admitted the Indians were the talk of the Johnson County area and it stoked his team’s competitive fire.
When the smoke cleared on Saturday, though, it was Olathe South standing in a familiar position — in the middle of the court holding the considerably large championship trophy.
The Falcons methodically dissected Manhattan with strong defense, efficient offensive execution and an inside power game that produced a 42-30 rebounding advantage.
Despite all that power — Lindsey Bartels and DejaNae Roebuck had 13 and 12 rebounds, respectively — it was the smallest player on the court who was the Falcons’ MVP and my choice for tourney MVP had there been one.
Makayla Gooch simply controlled the game. The pepperpot point guard coolly directed the offense and showed a bit of flair with her no-look passes and ability to blow past defenders with her quick first step, often leading to a 2-on-1 situation with the end result a layup.
South’s suffocating defense led to a 24-12 advantage to points in the paint as the Indians couldn’t get anything going inside. And they also didn’t get the much-heralded Carr incorporated into the offense that much as other than a stretch where she made three 3-pointers, she took only five other shots and missed them all.
This game could very well have been a Class 6A state semifinal or championship preview. I’m sure if the teams meet again, it will produce another well-played game.
As for McPherson High’s girls, they should take a lot out of this tournament. They didn’t break a sweat in the opener against Andale, but the loss to Olathe South in the semifinals and the win over a good Valley Center team in the third-place game will help the team down the road.
The Bullpups had the semifinal game within their grasp. They had Olathe South down 21-18 at the half, but the third quarter has been a bugaboo in the previous games with the Falcons and it was again on Saturday. South took away Taylor Robertson’s drives to the basket and covered her up from 3-point. Mandi Cooks was surrounded inside everytime she touched the ball and the Falcons did a good job taking away the 3-ball when she did kick it out.
If MHS can get past a solid Great Bend team in its next game on Feb. 7, I have a feeling it will win out through the regular season. I’ve now seen Hays and Buhler, and MHS should take care of those teams in the sub-state, while Ulysses is the fourth team and it doesn’t play near the competition as the Bullpups.