• MHS BOYS, BUHLER — AGAIN — There were probably two disappointed coaches Wednesday when the Ulysses boys won the sub-state coin flip with Buhler.
Buhler’s Denny Wahlgren certainly had to be disappointed since it meant that his Crusaders are matched against McPherson High for a fourth time this season. Given how the first three meetings have transpired, he certainly can’t like his chances. Knowing Wahlgren, though, he’s probably trying like a mad scientist to come up with a magic formula to pull the upset. He hasn’t had much success in his career against the Bullpups, but when his teams have won, they have been when it mattered most.
At least in the last meeting the Crusaders came out with fire in their eyes. They hit the Bullpups in the mouth with a 10-2 lead, feeding off their frenzied home crowd. Then normalcy returned and MHS won going away.
Buhler, though, has some good pieces. Sophomore Jace Williams is a tremendous athlete (one of the best in Kansas), but the Bullpups have done a good job of not letting him get going. Noah Webster and Quentin Henricks are capable guards and Shawn Davis is a potential presence on the inside. Actually, this team probably should have more than six wins given its athleticism.
Bullpup coach Kurt Kinnamon probably was disappointed, too. His team certainly will enter the game a week from Friday with a lot of confidence, but it also would like to play somebody different. Buhler should know just about everything McPherson runs and teams that have not seen the Bullpups are caught off guard how precise they are. Had MHS played Ulysses, I think it would have been a blowout.
The guess is it will be an MHS-Abilene final. Of course, the Cowboys stunned the Bullpups last year in the first round and went on to beat Hesston to make state. What hurt most about that loss was that the Bullpups were up 17-3 early, but for the first time all season foul trouble did them in as nearly the entire starting five was in major foul difficulty.
• MHS-BUHLER GIRLS SHOWDOWN PROBABLE — You never like to look ahead, but I’ll be surprised if it’s not a McPherson-Buhler showdown for the right to advance to Salina.
MHS has won two hard-fought games between the teams this season, the closer of the two coming in the Roundhouse.
MHS must first dispatch with Ulysses while Buhler goes up against Abilene, but it figures to be a mere formality.
Buhler has had a good year, but I don’t think it has played to its full potential in either game against the Bullpups, thanks in part to the defense MHS has applied to Jessica Steffen. The Crusaders’ dazzling point guard has averaged only 8 points in the two meetings and she’s more than capable of doubling that. Alex Keller has had her way with MHS in both games and the Bullpups must do a better job of shutting her down. The wild-card is Taryn Torgerson, who had a nice game at the Roundhouse, but wasn’t much of a factor at Buhler. She’s can light it up from 3-point, especially at the top of the key.
There’s not much separating MHS and Buhler and it’s tough to beat a good team three times. But so far, MHS has seemed to be the stronger team mentally. If the Bullpups advance to Salina, they’ll definitely earn it.
• BIG CROWD EXPECTED — McPherson High’s fans should be starved to see their teams at home.
MHS closed out regular-season play with three straight road games and have not played at home since the El Dorado game, which seems like a century ago.
Attendance this year, especially boasting the No. 1 team in the state and No. 6 team, has been terribly disappointing to say the least. In the old days, teams of this ilk would have packed the Roundhouse.
But the economy has put a dent in the crowd, not to mention I always hear there’s more to do now than their used to be, but I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what that it is, unless that means sitting in front of your computer and meandering on the Internet.
There’s no excuse for the Roundhouse to be half-full next week. We have four schools, not two, on hand and anytime McPherson and Buhler are matched, it makes for great theater.
If both McPherson teams are in the finals, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t have a crowd of 2,o00 on Saturday, which used to be a bad night when 2,500 to 2,700 packed the grand old building. When the Bullpups played at Buhler, it was nearly standing room only, though Buhler doesn’t have quite the capacity. Yet, are the alleged “best fans in the state” going to let Buhler out-do them? I sure hope not.