It will be a battle of Kansas’ girls basketball gold standards Wednesday in the first round of the Class 4A Division I State Tournament at Salina’s Bicentennial Center.
McPherson High and Bishop Miege, which have combined for a staggering 24 state titles, meet in the day’s opening game at 3 p.m.
The Bullpups have won eight state championships and the Stags 16. They met in the Class 5A first round in 2002, 2006 and 2010, but this is their first-ever first-round meeting as Class 4A schools.
“They are a young team, with only one senior that plays,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose Bullpups are the No. 7 seed with a 17-5 record that includes 15 wins in their last 16 games. “They are very talented and athletic though. Miege has players that can pressure full court, attack with penetration, and they have a good 6-2 girl inside. Their best guard transferred in at semester from Park Hill (Mo.), a pretty smooth lefty and is just a sophomore. We will have our hands full.”
Miege has had a tremendous year against quality competition.
“Miege comes in at 19-3 and very deserving of a No. 2 seed,” Strathman said. “Their only losses are to Blue Valley North (6A qualifier) and twice to Aquinas (5A qualifier). We have a great history of success between the two schools.”
This has been an improbable year for the Bullpups, who were second in 4A last year after winning the title in 2012. Having lost two-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year Katelyn Loecker and defensive ace Hailey Ruder, expectations weren’t generally as high as most years. Strathman was having to rebuild on the fly and the growing pains showed early with three losses in the first four games.
“Our girls have made tremendous strides this year and we are very proud of the improvement that they have made,” Strathman said.
The Bullpups’ blueprint for success has been uncanny foul shooting and defensive intensity. MHS made 49 of 63 free throws in its two sub-state games, including 26 of 35 in the 47-36 championship game victory over Buhler. Guards Abby Pedersen and Hannah Willems were a combined 16 of 18.
Defensively, the stars Saturday were Janae Barnes and Madison Hoffman. Barnes attacked everything in sight for 17 caroms, while Hoffman stepped in when Brooke Bate got into foul trouble and slowed Buhler star Jessica Steffen after she had started the game with five straight points. Hoffman also averaged 7.5 points in the sub-state, far above her season average.
Pedersen, Willems, Barnes and Bate are joined in the lineup by sophomore Ashtyn Schieferecke, whose insertion coincided with the Bullpups taking flight. She has been a physical presence on defense all year, but recently has had some big scoring games. She improved light-years, as she was bouncing back from missing last year with a torn ACL.
Strathman said the Bullpups definitely got the more difficult road to travel.
“In my opinion, our side is extremely difficult,” he said. “We have seen Paola and Andover Central as well. Both are very talented and well-coached. They would each present their own unique issues for us. Obviously, Miege is going to be tough for us, hopefully we get the chance to play one of them on Friday.”
The other side of the bracket is softer.
“I think everyone expects Wamego to advance out of their side of the bracket,” Strathman said. “I was glad to see Mulvane get in, another team from our division. I haven't seen KC Piper or Coffeyville yet, but have heard good things about both of them.”
If MHS topples Miege, it would play at 3 p.m. Friday against the winner of Paola and Andover Central.
• GIRLS SCHEDULE •
3:00 — McPherson (17-5) vs. Miege (19-3)
4:45 — Paola (19-3) vs. Andover Central (18-4)
6:30 — Wamego (22-0) vs. Mulvane (15-7)
8:15 — KC Piper (19-3) vs. Coffeyville (18-4)
3:00 — McPherson-Miege winner vs. Paola-Andover Central winner
6:30 — Wamego-Mulvane winner vs. KC Piper-Coffeyville winner
Noon — 3rd place
4:00 — 1st place