McPherson High’s girls-only basketball game Tuesday night at Newton is massive with a capital M.
Not only is it a matchup of state-ranked teams, but it could have a major bearing on the Mid America Classic pairings, which will be determined on Wednesday.
The varsity game has a 7 p.m. starting time, preceded by C-team and JV games. Catch the varsity action on 96.7 KBBE with Voice of the Bullpups Jim Joyner on the call, with air time somewhere around 6:40.
The 9-1 Bullpups are ranked No. 2 in Class 4A Division I, while the 7-2 Railers were No. 4 in the most recent 5A rankings. Newton has lost to Maize and Derby, but in both games were without standout athlete Taylor Antonowich, one of the state’s best volleyball players.
The Railers won last year’s meeting 39-37 at the Roundhouse on a late basket by 6-1 DesiRay Kernal, expected to be a sure-fire All-Stater this season.
“We may not see a team again with the overall athleticism of Newton, just a very quick team that is really good in transition but has also shown that they can grind things out as well in the past,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “DesiRay Kernal is clearly their best player, now at 6-1 and will play anywhere from post to bringing the ball up, etc. She can be a phenomenal player when she is locked in and focused. Their other top returners include Kyndal Bacon, just a solid point guard. Jada Berry is a very athletic small forward that scored 10 on us last year. Savannah Simmons looks like she has harnessed some of her athleticism and is more under control, making her very tough to keep out of the lane. We definitely have our hands full with tough matchups.”
The Bullpups are coming off a hard-earned 50-46 victory over Andale, a game they led by 10 with just over 2 minutes to go but had some shaky moments down the stretch. Strathman said that will be a good teaching moment for the Bullpups, who turned it over a half-dozen times in the final 3 minutes.
If the Bullpups can knock off Newton, they’ll be the No. 1 seed for the Mid America Classic. The field is absolutely loaded as Hays is 8-1, Manhattan is 7-1, Olathe South is 7-2, Ulysses is 7-3, Shawnee Mission Northwest is 5-3, Shawnee Mission South is 4-4 and Wichita Northwest is at the bottom despite a 4-5 record, though it plays Wichita West on Tuesday, a game it should win.