Anywhere, anyplace, anytime — that’s the scheduling philosophy for McPherson High’s basketball teams.
The Bullpups will continue their ambitious practice of playing only top-shelf competition Friday when they journey to Topeka to play Washburn Rural, which at Class 6A is two rungs higher than 4A Division I MHS.
Game time is set for 6 p.m. for the girls, with the boys starting approximately 7:45. Pre-game on 96.7 KBBE is scheduled for 5:45.
This is the return match from last year when the Bullpups emerged with a pair of hard-earned victories.
MHS will have had a week to prepare. The Bullpup girls opened with a 61-43 loss to No. 3 Class 5A Salina Central, while the boys snuck past the Mustangs, 61-58.
Washburn Rural's girls, ranked No. 7 in Class 6A, are off to a harrowing 2-0 start with one-point nailbiters over Topeka High and Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“They have experienced two very close games already and came out on top in both, which has to give them confidence,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “We know we have our hands full with our trip on Friday, but we are looking forward to getting back out on the court.”
The Junior Blues are coming off a 17-6 season. They have had to replace all-everything Erika Lane, as well as important components Charly Michaelis and Hannah Weingartner.
The expected top player is Courtney Winkley, who had 11 points in Tuesday’s 51-50 victory over SM Northwest. Jordyn Musselman and Paige Cunningham actually were the top scorers with 12 points apiece.
“Musselman is an outstanding athlete that can really run and push the ball, Cunningham is a very good 5-10 perimeter shooter and player, and Winkley is a strong inside player — emphasis on strong,” Strathman said.
Strathman, whose team overcame the shellshock of a 28-4 deficit against Salina Central to play relatively well after that, is expecting better results.
“Our girls have had a couple of good practices this week and hopefully we have ironed out many of our problems from the first game,” Strathman said. “Now we just have to play relaxed and execute.”
Abby Pedersen and Ashtyn Schieferecke led MHS against the Mustangs with 11 points apiece. Pedersen was blanketed by Central in the first half, but eventually shook free in the second half. Another key will be to get Janae Barnes going after early foul trouble limited her effectiveness.
In the boys’ game, the Bullpups will be looking to move to 2-0, while the Junior Blues opened their season Tuesday with a 62-43 loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest. Rural was ranked No. 4 in the latest KBCA poll.
The Junior Blues were 10-11 last season and graduated a pair of All-City performers in Riley Landuyt and Reed Rowell.
There’s not a lot of returning offense, as 6-0 Michael Singer and 6-4 Chris Edwards are the top scorers back and they combined to average 11 points a game. The Junior Blues do have some other size in 6-4 Blake Peterson and 6-4 Justin Montney.
On Tuesday, Singer scored 13 points and Peterson added 11. The third quarter was the difference as SM Northwest outscored Rural 19-8 to build on an eight-point halftime lead.
“Singer is their best player,” MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “They have decent size. Most concerning is the long ride and the layoff that we have had.”
In the season opener against Salina Central, the Bullpups received 19 points from Kyler Kinnamon and 11 apiece from Ryan Horton and Peter Horton. Peter, however, missed practice Tuesday with sickness.
What will be interesting to watch Friday is how the game is called. The high school game is not supposed to be called under the new college rules, though the officials last week apparently thought that was the case as there was an endless parade to the free throw line in both games.