Spotlight should shine on defenders

By Steve Sell
January 08, 2014

Wednesday’s ramblings...

• DEFENSE DESERVES INK, TOO — Sometimes a basketball player’s worth to their team goes far beyond how many points they score or rebounds they grab.

Never was that more evident than Tuesday night when McPherson High recorded an important sweep of arch-rival Buhler.

In the girls’ game, Brooke Bate did not score a single point for the Bullpups in their 60-55 victory. Yet, she was perhaps the star of the game as her defense shackled Buhler’s Jessica Steffen into a nine-point night after she had scored more than 20 points in each of the last two games. Bate had help from Madison Hoffman and Paige Schmidt, but it was her tenacity that set the tone as the Bullpups handed the Crusaders their first loss of the season.

The athletic Steffen clearly was frustrated throughout the night as the game plan devised by MHS coach Chris Strathman was brilliant. The Bullpups often gave Bate, Hoffman or Schmidt help, forcing Steffen to kick the ball to an open teammate. It was evident the Bullpups were going to make someone other than Steffen beat them. 

This was a huge win for the Bullpups. Buhler had come in off the charts in terms of confidence and it probably had noticed that MHS had been struggling record-wise. The Crusaders probably believed this was the time the Bullpups were their most vulnerable.

It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Crusaders make in the rematch next month in Buhler. 

In the boys’ game, McPherson’s Peter Horton put aside his offensive game to concentrate on defending Buhler star Jace Williams. Williams is one of the most prolific scorers in Class 4A, but with the spidery Horton playing inside of his shirt, Williams not only scored just three points, but was held to no field goals.

We should remember that basketball is more than just scoring. Defense can earn the press clippings, too.

• MADDUX, GLAVINE, THOMAS MAKE HALL – Longtime Atlanta teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, along with Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today.

This was one of the most star-studded ballots in recent memory. All three of the players voted in today were more than deserving, with Maddux receiving 97 percent of the vote. It seems like since there’s a “quote-unquote gentlemen’s agreement” that nobody should be unanimous, he wasn’t named on every ballot even though he should have.

No pitcher will ever again approach Maddux’s 355 wins. In fact, Glavine – who won 305 games — probably will be the last 300-game winner ever. The way the game is played today, pitchers don’t stay in games long enough to earn as many decisions as the old days.

Glavine, too, was a no-brainer. Thomas certainly had the numbers, though the knock on him was he spent so many years as a designated hitter. But you can’t deny his stats.

Craig Biggio was a scant few votes short of making it. I’m not sure I would have voted for him had I had a ballot, as he was always a very, very good player, but never overwhelming.

The most interesting development was how the players perceived as alleged steroid users continue to get lukewarm response. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and the like are light-years away and at this point it doesn’t appear they’ll ever get in. Of course, it’s never been proven they were ‘roiders, but the astronomical numbers they put up in their salad days screams of being dependent on chemicals.

• BIG GAME FOR JAYHAWKS — In a matter of a couple of hours, we’re going to find out what the Kansas Jayhawks are truly made of.

In the eyes of most, the wet-behind-the-ears Jayhawks have grossly underachieved. The consensus was they would win 30 games simply by walking on the floor.

But when they play tonight at Oklahoma, which is sensing blood, the Jayhawks will be staring at the fork in the road.

Are they going to turn it on and be the super power that most had expected? Or is their near total lack of experience going to be an albatross that will weigh them down the entire season?

To be honest, I really don’t know. I keep thinking that at some point the light is going to come on. I keep thinking Andrew Wiggins will morph into Julius Randle or Jabari Parker and that he’s going to locate his MIA jump shot. I keep thinking that Naadir Tharpe is going to throw the ball to his own team, instead of the opponent. I keep thinking that Tarik Black is going to figure out that he can’t foul. I keep thinking that Conner Frankamp might get a chance instead of being buried deeper and deeper on the bench.

Never has KU’s string of Big 12 championships been more tenuous. I can see two or three teams finishing ahead of it. And now, here comes Kansas State, a team not nearly as gifted, but with a heart that beats much louder.

This should be an interesting couple of months.