Tonight is all about the gold.
As in gold standard.
McPherson High will carry the banner for Kansas public schools when it plays at mighty Bishop Miege, the school that is the most-publicized source of consternation for those detractors who believe private schools have a built-in advantage.
These really are the programs that all other schools desire to be. Year-in and year-out, McPherson and Miege headline the conversation of top teams not only in Class 4A Division I, but Kansas. McPherson already has made a statement by the fact both its teams took down Derby, whose girls were ranked No. 1 and boys were No. 4 when the night began on Tuesday.
Public or private, though, it doesn’t matter. Every player who takes part tonight ties up their sneakers the same way. The floor is going to be filled with players whose basketball will not end with their high school days.
This is the completion of a two-year home-and-home series between the schools and both have been the better for it. For MHS coaches Kurt Kinnamon and Chris Strathman, it’s an up-close-and-personal scouting report that many believe will be needed for March at Salina. It’s also a chance for their teams to play in the ultimate hostile environment because if their teams are successful tonight, they can play anybody, anywhere, anytime.
I think the Bullpup boys are better equipped for Miege now than they have been the last two years. Nobody has to remind them of what happened last year in the regular-season meeting in the Roundhouse when the Stags looked like a college team by ringing up 87 points and making 3-pointers from everywhere and the ones they missed were stuffed back in by their collection of towering inside players. It was like memories of the 1977 Wichita Heights Falcons, still to this day the greatest high school team of all time.
The Bullpups learned from that game and were much more competitive in the state championship game.
I’m glad MHS is getting the Stags early. As good as the willowy 6-8 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and muscular 6-7 Joshua Early are, they’re going to dearly miss bullet-quick point guard Semaj Ray and the tough-as-nails Landry Weber, son of former Kansas State star Stan Weber.
And the player who really hurt MHS last year, Francesco Baddochi, is now a Virginia Cavalier. He was a matchup nightmare as he was a 6-6 guard who had a tremendous skillset.
The new Miege players fall into the unknown category, like guard Ezekiel Lopes was last year. Lopes was thought to be the weak link when the teams met in McPherson, but he came out and buried 3 after 3 to get the Stags off and running.
The Bullpups have the experience, size and strength to pull off the win. I believe it’s going to come down to rebounding and foul trouble as if MHS can hang with the Stags on the boards and keep the TOs at about 10, its chances are excellent.
In the girls’ game, it’s all about the inside play. Miege basically plays only six players and half of them are at least 6-1. A couple of talented freshmen post players have been added from last year and then there’s the Gonzales twins, who wreaked havoc defensively last year as the Bullpups spent most of the first half succumbing to their pressure with turnover after turnover.
To win, the Bullpups must be able to get Taylor Robertson open looks and they must at least be competitive on the boards since more than likely Miege will have the advantage there. The ultimate stat line is going to be turnovers, as MHS needs to keep it at about a dozen and not be shaky early because the Stags will feed off that.
It’s going to be a wonderful night for basketball and hopefully this will be the first of two doubleheaders between the teams, the next meeting being on the last Saturday in March in Salina.