Titanic showdowns here Tuesday

By Steve Sell
December 15, 2014
Kendall Shaw

It’s going to be a very special night Tuesday at the Roundhouse.

In what will be the best set of home games for the McPherson High basketball teams this season, the Bullpups host Abilene in games that you would normally find at the state tournament.

Game time is 6 p.m. for the girls, with the boys to follow. 96.7 KBBE-FM coverage starts at 5:45.

The boys’ game will match teams that will be ranked No. 2 and No. 5, respectively, when the KBCA polls are officially released later today. The Bullpups and Cowboys, who met in last year’s sub-state championship game, are both 3-0 on the year.

“Abilene presents a number of challenges in that they run a myriad of set plays designed to isolate people and take away the help,” said MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon, whose team is coming off as close to a complete game as it can play with a 68-31 shellacking of Winfield. “(Ryan) Wilson is as good of a guard as we will see and (6-8 Eric) Harms is as tall as any player we will play against this year.”

And the Cowboys have a wise old head on the sidelines in Terry Taylor, who has won 580 games during his career at various ports of call. With Kinnamon’s 408 career victories, there will be nearly 1,000 coaching victories on the sideline.

“Coach Taylor is an excellent coach and I am sure that his team will be ready after the sub-state final here last year,” Kinnamon said.

The Cowboys were surprisingly pushed by one of Taylor’s former teams, Augusta, on Friday, escaping with a 53-51 victory. But the Orioles did a lockdown job on Wilson, holding him without a field goal in seven attempts. Before that, the Cowboys had put up more than 70 points in wins over Rock Creek and Smoky Valley.

McPherson High’s defense has been borderline sensational so far, giving up just over 34 points a game. Only Class 5A Andover (48) has scored more than 31.

The girls’ game is another tough test for the Bullpups, who were supposed to be extended to the limit on Friday, but rolled past Winfield, 62-35. Five Bullpups scored nine points or more, led by Ally Ulsaker with 14.

The Cowgirls have blazed to a 3-0 start.

“Abilene is going to be a great test for us,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose team is 2-1 on the year. “They are a very talented group and none of them are seniors this year.”

For the third game in a row, the Bullpups must defend a 6-0 center as 6-0 Belle Barbieri is one of the better players in Class 4A Division I.

“I have always been impressed with Belle Barbieri,” Strathman said. “She does a great job of getting position and finishing around the basket. Their other best returnee is McKenzie Funston, a strong, athletic sophomore guard that can get going from 3. The player that could really be the difference in their team this year, though, is a point guard transfer from Sacred Heart in Salina, Cara Donley. We will have our hands full with Abilene, but are really looking forward to the challenge.”

No team has yet to play the Cowgirls within single digits as they have impressive wins over Augusta, Rock Creek and Smoky Valley.