This was the Janae Barnes that McPherson High girls basketball coach Chris Strathman had envisioned at the start of the year.
After her tremendous performance in the Class 4A state championship game last year against Wamego, the athletic 6-0 Barnes was expected to be an offensive force and leader for a young Bullpup team this season.
After a so-so start through two games, Barnes had her coming-out party here Tuesday night with a powerhouse performance, scoring 23 points and snapping up nine rebounds in a 55-41 MHS victory over Mulvane, a team picked by many to win AVCTL Division III this season.
The much-needed verdict followed a pair of competitive losses to ranked, higher-class teams and gives the Bullpups momentum heading into Friday’s game in the Hy-Vee Classic against St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City.
"Janae had a great game tonight, I didn't realize she had 23 until afterwards," Strathman said. "She can shoot the basketball, but she also did a nice job inside too when she got it. She took her time finishing plays."
The first half could have been played in a phone booth as no more than three points ever separated the teams. A key play, though, occurred late in the half when Strathman was hit with a rare technical foul (only the second in his entire career), which actually fired up the Bullpups as they scored the final four points of the half to lead 24-21, then rode the emotional wave in the third quarter with 19 points to take command of the situation.
"I felt I needed to do something because nothing was going our way (with the officiating)," Strathman said. "That's the way it goes. The kids fought through that."
Abby Pedersen added 12 points and Hannah Willems stepped up to hit three 3-pointers for nine points.
An added bonus was the play off the bench by Madison Hoffman. While she scored only two points, she handled the ball exceptionally and played good defense.
"She had big minutes for us," Strathman said. "Seventeen minutes and she plays great defense and took care of the ball. She just does what she needs to do, (she knows) what her role is, (and) she understands it. I thought the other key to the game for us was having only nine turnovers."
Strathman dealt out even more praise.
"Hannah, our primary point guard, had zero (turnovers) and got us into our offense and did a nice job of handling the basketball," he said. "Brooke Bate did a good job defensively, (Destynee) Donaldson is a tough matchup. Donaldson and (Aubree) Burkhart are good players and got their points, but we're glad to get out of here with a win tonight."
Donaldson scored 14 points and Burkhart added 11 to lead the Wildcats.
The MHS JVs cranked up the offense in a 62-39 success. Eleven Bullpups checked into the scoring column, with Cassidy Wedel and Ashtyn Schieferecke leading the way with 11 points apiece.
The MHS C-team continued its fine play with a 47-35 decision behind 16 points by Kamryn Collins and 10 by Emma Yowell. Emma Ellet just missed doubles with nine points.
Friday’s game in the Hy-Vee Classic has a 5:30 p.m. start and will be aired on Cox Cable Channel 22, as well as on the radio by 96.7 KBBE FM.
MHS (55) — Wedel 0-1, 0-0, 0; Bate 1-4, 1-2, 3; Willems 3-12, 0-0, 9; Hoffman 0-2, 2-2, 2; Pedersen 3-7, 4-5, 12; Schieferecke 0-2, 0-0, 0; Ulsaker 1-1, 0-1, 2; Barnes 7-12, 7-10, 23; Cooks 2-4, 0-0, 4. Totals — 17-45, 14-20, 55. 3-pointers — Willems 3, Pedersen 2, Barnes 2.
Mulvane (41) — Melick 2-10, 3-6, 8; Donaldson 5-10, 4-7, 14; Burkhart 4-10, 2-2, 11; Wilson 2-3, 0-0, 4; Endres 2-3, 0-0, 4. Totals — 15-36, 9-15, 41. 3-pointers — Melick 1, Burkhart 1.
MHS JV (62) — Schmidt 8, Wedel 11, Hoffman 9, Heidebrecht 2, Schieferecke 11, Ulsaker 8, Collins 1, Ellet 1, Dossett 2, Yowell 7, Bruner 2
MHS C (47) — Howard 8, Yowell 10, Bruner 2, Collins 16, Ellet 9, Bennett 2.