• STATE TOURNAMENT ATMOSPHERE — Tonight will be hostile atmosphere unlike any the McPherson High boys have experienced this year.
The Bullpups will receive their toughest regular-season test of the season when they travel to Andale.
Anyone who attended the football playoff game between the schools this past fall knows just what kind of support Andale receives from its home crowd. There were more than 3,000 fans in attendance when the Indians ended the Bullpups’ season in the second round.
The MHS boys need a game like this. AVCTL Division III simply hasn’t provided them the push they need to stay sharp. I really thought Winfield might give them some trouble here last Tuesday, but the Vikings were turnover-prone and played haphazard defense.
MHS is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A Division I and Andale is No. 2 in Class 4A Division II. The Indians have a point guard who is comparable to MHS’ Kyler Kinnamon in Hunter Knoblauch and a strong inside post player in Jeff Ast, who is a handful.
The Bullpups certainly are looking forward to the challenge. Games like these get the competitive juices flowing and prepares the team for postseason play.
It’s also a big game for the girls. MHS and Andale met in the recent Mid America Classic semifinals and there’s little difference between the teams. MHS is coming off a subpar performance in a comeback win over Winfield on Tuesday, rallying from eight points down in the fourth quarter. MHS also came back last Friday in its game against Dodge City, so the Bullpups need a good performance to build up momentum heading into the final four league games of the season as they continue to hold a tenuous lead in AVCTL D-III.
• UNDERWOOD’S TEAM ON FIRE — My guess is that McPherson native Brad Underwood could run for mayor of Nacogdoches, Texas.
In his first year as head basketball coach at NCAA Division I Stephen F. Austin, Underwood has led the Lumberjacks to a 22-2 record. They now have the nation’s longest active home winning streak (30) and this week received a vote in the AP Top 25 poll.
Underwood was a longtime assistant at his alma mater, Kansas State, before spending last year as an assistant coach to former KSU coach Frank Martin at South Carolina. Finally given his chance to run his own show after more than paying his dues, Underwood has a team that is providing Lumberjack fans endless thrills.
SFA hasn’t lost since Nov. 23 and has won 19 games in a row.
Being a longtime friend of Underwood, I wish him the best the rest of the season and hope the Lumberjacks make a deep run in postseason play.
• SHOWDOWN TONIGHT IN LINDSBORG — The Bethany College Swedes could take a huge step toward their first KCAC men’s basketball title in 24 years tonight when they host Friends in almost what amounts to a loser-leaves-town match.
Both teams are 11-3 in the KCAC and a half-game back of first-place Sterling, which has a make-up game to play Monday against Tabor to get back in synch with the rest of the conference.
The game matches the Nos. 1 and 2 scorers in the country in No. 1 Joe Mitchell of Friends and No. 2 Idris IbnIdris of Bethany. Mitchell averages 32.7 and IbnIdris is at 27.4. Having seen both players this season, I can honestly say both probably have no business playing at this level as they clearly have NCAA Division I ability.
My guess is that the two stars will cancel each other out and that the outcome will be determined by the supporting casts. Both teams shoot the 3-ball tremendously and the inside game could be the difference.
I believe if the Swedes win, they’re going to win the title. Their three games left after tonight are against the KCAC’s bottom three teams. Sterling might have the lead, but it has games left with Friends, Tabor and Saint Mary — no way it gets through that gauntlet unscathed.