Maybe the best thing to happen to McPherson High’s boys last season, though it didn't seem like it at the time, was when Andale came into the Roundhouse and basically punched the Bullpups right in the mouth.
That 53-43 loss left MHS dazed and confused, staring at an unaccustomed 6-4 record at the halfway point of the season and raising more questions than answers. It was a fork in the road and the Bullpups had to decide which way to go.
The Bullpups picked the right way and won its invitational tournament the next week and eventually reeled off 14 wins in a row before losing to Bishop Miege in the state championship game.
On Friday, MHS takes an 8-1 record to Andale for the rematch and it will be the second game this week that the Bullpups have faced an undefeated team, having dealt Augusta its first loss of the year on Tuesday at the Roundhouse with a statement-like score of 64-34.
The boys’ game has a 7:30 start, while both girls teams have just one loss this season. The opener starts at 6 p.m., with all the action being carried on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Voice of the Bullpups Jim Joyner calling the game.
Andale basically has back all its major ingredients that keyed the 10-point win at the Roundhouse and Bullpup coach Kurt Kinnamon knows it will be a tussle again.
“They will be the toughest and most physical team that we play all year long,” Kinnamon said. “They are relentless on the offensive glass and never take a bad shot. They are going to work the ball until they get what they want. Defensively, they play extremely hard in their matchup zone so that it looks like a man-to-man defense. Easton Hunter is their best shooter, but they have a number of kids in the 6-2 to 6-4 range that all weigh about 200 pounds and they just go after every ball.”
In last year’s game, Hunter knocked down 17 points and Brody Jobbins added 16. Mason Fairchild is a horse inside along with his brother Grant. Parker Bruce is a tremendous athlete and the Indians also have some depth.
“I told them this team (Augusta) was a fairly physical team,” Kinnamon said after the Bullpups routed the Orioles by 30. “But when you see these Andale guys, there’s no comparison. They are big, long and strong. They play a style of defense that we don’t see. We have wracked our brains trying to figure out what we’re going to do. Now if we shoot it like we did tonight, that will really help towards getting a win on Friday.”
While the MHS boys are still smarting from their loss to Andale from last year, the Andale girls are probably doing the same thing.
They went into the Roundhouse last year and got thumped 70-27 as MHS poured in 12 of 27 from beyond the arc. Andale is off to a great start this year at 7-1, but probably hasn’t seen a team as talented and deep as the Bullpups.
“Andale is a very experienced and confident team right now,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “They start five seniors and they all look to be much improved from last year, but none more than Bria Gutschenritter as she is leading them in scoring this year at 10 points a game. They are very balanced overall and will sub in five at a time sometimes and there is not much difference. They have a good post in Morgan Geist that finishes very well inside at nearly 70 percent. Andale is also not afraid to mix up their defenses and give different looks, so we will have to be prepared to adjust throughout the game."
Strathman well remembers the last time the teams met in Andale.
The last time we played at Andale was Taylor (Robertson) and Mandi's (Cooks) freshmen year and we lost in overtime,” Strathman said. “Andale is another ranked team (4A-II) as we continue to play a good stretch of opponents. Hopefully we can continue to gain momentum as we head into our matchups with Newton and then a strong Mid America Classic field.”
This is MHS' sixth game out of 10 against a ranked team. It lost to Miege, but has defeated Derby, Abilene, Circle and Augusta. Next Tuesday’s game at Newton also features a meeting of ranked teams.