MHS-Miege games were as good as expected

By Steve Sell
December 11, 2017

McPherson High’s basketball games with Bishop Miege on Friday in Roeland Park were every bit as good as advertised.

Actually better.

The two longtime adversaries gave the packed crowd — which included big-time college recruiters, including KU’s Bill Self and K-State’s Bruce Weber — more than the price of admission.

The two-year home-and-home series is now complete and probably won’t be renewed, MHS Athletic Director Shane Backhus said today. I know the McPherson coaches said it was a long way for their teams to travel to play a game and I’m sure Miege felt the same way last year. Stags girls coach Terry English told me before the game just how much his team enjoyed playing in the Roundhouse and said games with McPherson are exactly what his team needs, which is why they travel great distances to find only the best competition.

I haven’t seen the rest of the schools in Class 4A Division I, but if there are better teams than the MHS boys and girls and Miege boys and girls, I’d like for those candidates to step to the plate.

I have a feeling we’re going to see these teams battle again in Salina, if not in the finals, maybe the semifinals. It just depends on how the bracket falls since both MHS and Miege play challenging schedules.

Of the two games, I thought the McPherson girls would have the more difficult challenge. Had the Bullpups been at full strength, it would have been interesting to see how it would have played out. I don’t think Miege’s super freshman Faith Hawthorne (who had 23 points) would have had her way inside as much had Bullpup Division I signee Mandi Cooks been able to play. However, the Stags also were without one of their stars, 6-3 sophomore Ashton Verhulst, the sister of super freshman Peyton Verhulst, who is a star in the making as she’s 6-2 with a tremendous skillset.

The Bullpup girls stayed in the game with their 3-point shooting. Amazingly, MHS has made double-digits in 3s in all three games so far, adding another 10 against the Stags.

Miege, though, did not make a single 3-pointer, instead pounding the ball inside. That allowed the Stags to get to the free throw line 36 times, though 16 of those attempts came in the final quarter as MHS got behind and was forced to foul.

At some point, the Bullpups are going to have to develop some inside scoring as there are going to be games where the 3-ball isn’t going to fall. But for now, their expert marksmanship has been enough.

I had a really good feeling about the MHS boys going into their game, particularly with the way they had played against Derby.

My feeling was that All-Staters Ben Pyle of MHS and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Miege would cancel each other out, which for the most part they did. The defense for both teams was outstanding, as neither made 50 percent of their shots. Because of Miege’s 6-9, 6-8 and 6-5 front line, MHS was forced to cast off 18 3-pointers, making only 4.

The Bullpups seemed to be in control of the game with a 31-23 lead early in the second half, but Miege stormed back. As in the game last year at the Roundhouse, unsung guard Ezekiel Lopes was the key player with 8 third-quarter points to keep the Stags within shouting distance. 

The Bullpups had a couple of chances to tie the game at the end, including a well-designed play with 1.8 seconds left that at least enabled Pyle get a look at a game-tying basket.

What both MHS teams will take away from this trip was that they can play with Miege and what they need to do should another meeting take place. Hopefully that will be the case in about 3 months in Salina.