McPherson High’s girls have played for the state championship each of the last two years, winning the title in 2012 and taking second to Wamego in 2013.
If they have any visions of making a third straight finals appearance, they need to advance out of this week’s Class 4A Division I sub-state at the Roundhouse.
MHS opens play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Ulysses, and a victory would advance it to Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game against the winner of Buhler and Abilene.
“We are excited to get rolling this week with postseason play, especially with it being at home,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose team is 15-5 — after a 2-4 start — and the top seed. “The girls understand that you can never take anything for granted, so we should be ready to go on Thursday against Ulysses.”
The Tigers come in an unassuming 7-13 and they also have to make the monster bus ride, which will be well over 3 hours. It will be the first-ever meeting between the teams, but Strathman and his coaching staff have been diligent in preparing for the game.
One common opponent was Rose Hill, a team the Bullpups handled twice by double digits, while the Tigers were a 10-point winner. Ulysses also lost by 14 to Dodge City, a team the Bullpups rallied to defeat.
“We will expect to see some zone defense out of them. Hopefully we do a good job of attacking that,” Strathman said. “The girls have been playing well and have had some very good practices recently. Hopefully we can continue with that and have it transfer to our games.”
MHS generally lights up at the sight of a zone, given the 3-ball is pertinent to its offense. Abby Pedersen and Hannah Willems are prolific outside shooters, while inside the Bullpups have been getting a lot of production out of Janae Barnes and the rapidly improving Ashtyn Schieferecke. Brooke Bate is the Bullpups’ ace defender, with help from Madison Hoffman, as they have been quite a tag team on the opponents' top guards.
As for the other game, Strathman is expecting Buhler to get through, which would set up a third meeting of the year between the teams. MHS outlasted the Crusaders by five at the Roundhouse, then won by 15 in the recent return road meeting. Buhler, though, is immensely talented, but it's become more mental for the Crusaders than anything else.
“Buhler really handled Abilene earlier this year, but Abilene does have some talented players that could step up and cause some problems for anyone,” Strathman said.