A strength of the McPherson High girls basketball team during its 19-3, state-qualifying season has been its depth.
When Bullpup coach Chris Strathman goes to his bench, there’s very little fall-off unless junior standouts Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks are both sitting.
Truth be told, I think McPherson High’s reserves could have given Hays or Buhler one heck of a game last week in the sub-state, perhaps beaten one or both of them. No slights to those teams, but a testament to the young talent sitting on MHS’ bench.
Other than their three losses — all to ranked teams that qualified for state tournaments —the Bullpups have enjoyed decisive margins in their 19 victories. After the Mid America Classic, the ‘Pups basically had only one moment of tension, that coming in the second half against Circle, which is in the 4A Division I State field with the Bullpups.
That kind of domination has allowed Strathman to bring along his younger players at the pace he wants. It also gives the Bullpups a leg up on next year when they have to replace only two seniors, starters Emma Yowell and Jordan Bruner.
Unlike the boys’ tournament where only four teams have winning records, the girls’ tournament did get most of the “best of the best” in the field. The only upset was Rose Hill losing to Wellington and it was the fourth time this year the teams had met, so they obviously were familiar with each other.
The McPherson girls are making their 22nd state appearance in the last 25 years. That experience should come in handy against Paola, a team that also has enjoyed considerable state success as it has lost to Miege in each of the last two state championship games.
For the Bullpups, it’s all about the start. Their zone press has been devastating and led to some double-digit margins after the first quarter. Also, MHS’ 3-point proficiency — especially early in games — has gotten the team off to great starts and forced the other teams to play catch-up.
This will be no easy road for the Bullpups to travel. Paola will be more than worthy and if they can get past that one, then Piper is the most likely opponent. It has to be doing something right to be 21-1.
On the other side of the bracket, Miege may as well be passed on through. Circle is the No. 2 seed, but don’t be surprised if Labette puts a monster scare into the T-Birds. Labette has the best player in that game in Tristan Gegg, who lit up the Bullpups last year in the Grizzlies’ surprise victory.
The Bullpup girls just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing — great defense, outstanding 3-point shooting and rebound. If they do those three things, they’ll be just fine.