SALINA — McPherson High’s girls would probably swear that Bishop Miege had 10 players on the defensive end of the court Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament.
Everywhere the Bullpups turned, there were two Stags. Frontcourt, backcourt, inside, outside — there seemingly were Stags swarming around the basketball like a pack of starved wolves.
Miege’s relentless defensive pressure resulted in 25 MHS mechanical errors and the Stags’ 29-7 advantage in points off turnovers — not to mention a 27-7 domination in free throws made — resulted in a 62-45 victory. The Stags, now 20-3, will play 19-4 Andover Central at 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals after the Trojans outlasted Paola 58-50 in the second game of the day.
MHS was reduced to fouling in the final three minutes, which swelled the lead and made the game appear much more lopsided than it actually was.
The loss ended the Bullpups’ season at 17-6, including a 15-2 record in the final 17 games. The only other loss other than Miege was against Manhattan, which is 22-1 and the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A Tournament where it advanced to the semifinals after winning Wednesday.
“The girls battled like crazy,” said Chris Strathman, who may have turned in his finest MHS coaching job other than winning state titles in 2008 and 2012 as this team far exceeded most expectations. “To be in the first half (despite) 1 of 7 at the line and 16 turnovers... those stats wouldn’t normally tell me we were going to be right there in the game.”
MHS was down 14-5 after just five minutes of action, but got it within 16-11 by quarter’s end despite 10 turnovers. The Bullpups finished off a 15-4 sizz to take a 20-18 lead on Abby Pedersen’s third 3-pointer of the half, but the Stags regrouped to eventually lead 29-23 at the break.
Hannah Willems and then Pedersen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second half to get the game tied at 29 and it was still 33-all with 4:24 to go in the third quarter when the roof caved in, as Miege closed the period on a 12-2 rip for a 45-35 lead. MHS never got it under double digits the rest of the way and Miege spent the fourth quarter at the line, cashing in 16 of 19.
The Stags followed their tradition of being machine-like, turning it over just 13 times and making 27 of 34 free throws. The Bullpups actually held them to 40 percent from the field.
At one point in the second half, MHS was shooting nearly 65 percent from the field for the game, but went ice-cold in the fourth period to finish at 15 of 31, as well as 7 of 13 from the line where they have just dominated teams late in the season.
Strathman liked his team’s position when it was 33-all.
“The girls were making big shots, and making stops and just making plays,” said Strathman, as the Bullpups made eight 3-pointers in the game, but none in the final 14 minutes. “They left it out on the floor tonight. We talk about leaving with no regrets and our girls should be able to do that tonight without a doubt.”
Pedersen, in the final game of a career that included four straight trips to state including a title in 2012 and a runner-up finish in 2013, scored 18 points and Willems, who will join her next year in Tabor College’s backcourt, added 13. Another senior, Janae Barnes, pulled down nine rebounds despite picking up her fourth foul with 3:23 left in the third quarter, though she managed to avoid the fifth.
Madeline Homoly, a 6-2 center, powered her way to 18 points to lead Miege. Solid point guard Shelbe Piggie had an efficient game with 14 points as well as four steals on the defensive end, part of a 13-pilfer Miege effort. A killer for the Bullpups was Kelsey Wolf coming off the bench for 12 points, while Hunter Bentley added 10.
“They’re young. Those guards (Piggie, Wolf and Tristen McFeders) are young, but their backside anticipators are good,” Strathman said. “They really read the eyes and sometimes when you can’t simulate that stuff (in practice) and you get into a game, you’re just that much more sped up, you’re telegraphing passes a little more than you normally would and that just allows them to get tips and anticipate so well. They’re just a good team... I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see them come out of here with the title.”
MHS (45) — Schmidt 0-1, 0-0, 0; Wedel 1-2, 0-0, 3; Bate 0-1, 0-0, 0; Willems 3-6, 4-8, 13; Hoffman 1-1, 0-2, 2; Pedersen 6-9, 2-2, 18; Schieferecke 0-0, 0-0, 0; Ulsaker 0-0, 0-0, 0; Barnes 3-9, 1-1, 7; Yowell 0-1, 0-0, 0; Collins 1-1, 0-0, 2; Cooks 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals — 15-31, 7-13, 45. 3-pointers — Pedersen 4, Willems 3, Wedel 1.
Miege (62) — McFeders 1-1, 2-2, 4; Hair 0-1, 0-0, 0; Wolf 4-7, 3-3, 12; Piggie 3-9, 7-9, 14; Mannebach 0-1, 0-0, 0; Hu. Bentley 2-10, 6-10, 11; Villegas 1-1, 1-2, 3; Homoly 5-10, 8-8, 18. Totals — 16-40, 27-34, 62. 3-pointers — Wolf 1, Piggie 1, Hu. Bentley 1.