Bullpup girls have tremendous depth

By Steve Sell
January 10, 2018

This is not meant to be a knock at the other girls basketball teams in AVCTL Division III.

It’s instead meant to be a tribute to the depth of the McPherson High girls.

At the halfway point of the Division III race, the Bullpups are the league leader at 5-0, with Circle second at 4-1.

But when you consider that MHS drilled Circle by 25 points on the T-Birds’ home court, it’s evident at least at this point that it’s the Bullpups, then everybody else in the league, where MHS has lost only once in 55 games since becoming D-III.

And to be honest, after also seeing Augusta, Buhler, El Dorado and Winfield, I’m not so sure if the Bullpups’ non-starters couldn’t be, at worst, the third-best team in the league — especially if Mandi Cooks’ rehab continues on track and she’s able to return, say, by Feb. 1 and get a month’s worth of games in before the sub-state.

Of course, we just don’t know how Cooks is going to play upon her return. But even an 80-percent Cooks is about as good as any post player in the league.

MHS coach Chris Strathman currently suits up 13 players and in many of the games this year, he’s been able to play them all. The Bullpups are especially loaded in the junior class.

And again, being brutally honest, the Bullpups have reserves who would easily start for most teams and be among those teams’ best players.

Just think about this when Mandi Cooks comes back. The Bullpups could send out a  team that includes Emma Ruddle and Jaycee Burghart at the guards, Cassie Cooks and Maggie Leaf tag-teaming at the post as they currently do in Mandi’s absence, and then Andrea Sweat and Claire Yowell at the wings, with backups being Grace Pyle, Kari Ellet and Megan Eisenbarth.

That’s a pretty good team — a team that could win a lot of games, not to mention it would entirely be made up of underclassmen. 

Burghart is a steady guard and good defender. Ruddle is perhaps the best pure athlete on the team and will eventually be an explosive scorer. Cooks and Leaf have more than proven what they can do. Sweat had a breakout game on Tuesday with 11 points and causes problems on defense with her length. Yowell has been a three-year contributor and 3-point specialist. Pyle has already come up big offensively, including a three-game stretch where she averaged nearly 7 points. Ellet and Eisenbarth have been patiently waiting for minutes while coming off double-figure JV games on Tuesday.

There’s certainly plenty of size and length, not to mention ballhandlers, defenders and shooters. If you need an indicator of this group, just look what it has done in JV games. The average fan doesn’t see the JV and C-teams, but the JVs have routed every team they have played and the C-team has rolled to impressive win after impressive win.

I think Strathman has done an admirable job of dividing the minutes accordingly. For most teams the starters go much of the way, but Strathman almost always has most of his bench in during the first half and if a hot hand develops, he stays with it.

I’m sure it’s a problem that opponents of the Bullpups would love to have.