MHS girls can win league title on Tuesday

By Steve Sell
February 20, 2017
Kendall Shaw

Tuesday night figures to determine whether or not McPherson High’s girls are going to win the AVCTL Division III basketball championship outright or share it with Circle.

The two teams meet in Towanda. A Bullpup victory clinches the championship and a Circle victory means both teams have to win on Friday for a share.

The action starts at 6 p.m. Those unable to attend can catch both games on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Voice of the Bullpups Matt Cole on the call.

MHS is 8-0 in league play and the T-Birds are 7-1, the only loss coming to the Bullpups last month at the Roundhouse. In that game MHS shot out to a huge lead in the first quarter, but was actually outscored over the final three.

Overall, the Bullpups are No. 3 in Class 4A Division I with a 15-3 record, while Circle is No. 4 with a 17-1 mark.

“We are hoping to continue playing well, but we know the competition is much better tomorrow night in Circle as they have just the one loss to us right now,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “They have two excellent guards in Carissa Beck and Kali Martin. Beck is one of the top shooters in the area and state, and Martin can really attack and break down your defense. Their role players are solid and know what they are expected to do. I have enjoyed the prep work for this team as I know we have a challenging game tomorrow night.”

The Bullpups have had a stranglehold on the league title. Should MHS win on Tuesday, it would be the 11th championship in 12 years under Strathman, which followed a stretch where MHS won 9 of 11 years as the Bullpups have won 19 of the last 22.

While McPherson fans often look at the bigger picture of going to state, Strathman says it’s important not to overlook the accomplishment of winning the league.

“I’m sure people do take it for granted. I definitely try not to do that,” Strathman said. “I know one thing, the Circle team and fans will go nuts if they win tomorrow and give themselves a chance to tie us for league, so that's a little different perspective. The state tournament can be all about your seed and draw and a total crapshoot sometimes, while your regular season shows sustained success as well as anything.”

The MHS boys don’t have to worry about winning another league title as they wrapped up a share on Friday with their win over Buhler. Now they want to win it outright.

MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon now has 16 league championships in his 22 years. Now he wants his Bullpups to close with a flourish as they have won their last eight to move to 14-4. A win would clinch the top seed for the sub-state next week at Buhler.

"Winning the league is something that is a nice accomplishment," Kinnamon said. "More important to us is the fact that we are undefeated in Division III since we came into the league."

When you talk Thunderbirds, it all starts with guard Cal Hartley. He's one of the top scorers in the state and has been held under 20 points only twice this season, one of those a 14-point game against the Bullpups.

"Circle is dangerous because they play well at home and Hartley can really get on a roll," Kinnamon said. "Last time Jake (Alexander) and Mason (Alexander) did a tremendous job. We hopefully can do the same defensive job that we did on Friday."

MHS closes out the regular season on Friday with Senior Night against Augusta.