Showdown Friday in Buhler

By Steve Sell
February 20, 2014
Kendall Shaw- File Photo

It’s all on the line Friday night at Buhler.

McPherson High’s girls can clinch the Ark Valley League Division III championship and top seed for the upcoming sub-state with a victory over the arch-rival Crusaders.

Game time is 6 p.m., with 96.7 KBBE FM coverage starting at 5:45. Given it’s only 15 minutes to Buhler and it’s now the Bullpups’ No. 1 arch-rival, a huge throng of red-and-white clad MHS fans are expected to make the trip.

The Bullpups are 8-0 in D-III, while Buhler is 6-1 as it has played one less game. MHS was 10-0 in D-III last year, but it has perhaps surprised some experts with its play since this was considered somewhat of a rebuilding year.

The Bullpups, 13-5 overall, close out their season Tuesday at Rose Hill. Meanwhile, Buhler plays Tuesday at Mulvane and a makeup game Thursday against Rose Hill.

“It’s probably going to be pretty well decided on Friday night,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said Tuesday after his team escaped from Mulvane, 58-56. “We’ve got a one-game lead on them and we beat them at our place and they’re going to be out to get us at their place on Friday.”

Strathman added that it’s Buhler’s “Think Pink Night,” and the Bullpups traditionally have played well on those nights.

Buhler, 12-5 overall, walloped El Dorado 60-32 on Tuesday. The Crusaders have a number of potential scoring threats, but it all starts with talented point guard Jessica Steffen, who will be chomping to erase her performance of the first meeting when MHS harassed her into a subpar performance. Taryn Torgerson and Alex Keller are other standouts, with Keller having a big game in the first meeting.

In the boys’ game, the Bullpups will be looking for their third straight lopsided win over the Crusaders this year as the teams have met twice in the Roundhouse, once in the McPherson Invitational consolation round. Both games have played out the same, with MHS’ defensive pressure causing the Crusaders to throw the ball all over the court.

MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon, however, is taking nothing for granted. MHS has sealed up the league title and the top seed for the sub-state, but he knows anything can happen in a rivalry game.

“It’s always a rivalry game that our kids look forward to playing,” Kinnamon said. “Buhler has a nice atmosphere with the band being outstanding. They have been struggling with injuries lately, but I’m sure they will be ready for us. (Jace) Williams is a capable player that plays on emotion so we have to not let him get started. I know (Shawn) Davis has been fighting a high ankle sprain and has missed some time, but I am sure he will be ready for us.”

In their 56-32 loss to El Dorado on Tuesday, only three Crusaders scored. Kinnamon said the Bullpups have to be wary, though, as the wily Dennis Wahlgren is capable of throwing anything at MHS since he’s gone up against the Bullpups so many times during his long career.