BUHLER — The McPherson nightmare is finally over for the Buhler girls and their star guard Jessica Steffen.
The Crusaders had never defeated McPherson High with Chris Strathman as Bullpup head coach and Steffen was coming off three forgettable games against the Bullpups last year.
For the first time in 11 games with Strathman on the sidelines, Buhler came away with a 47-42 victory Tuesday as Steffen — so frustrated last year as she never broke loose in the trilogy—had it going with 21 points, including 11 of 13 at the foul line.
The victory, only the fifth for Buhler in the last 31 meetings with MHS, moved the Crusaders into sole possession of first place in AVCTL Division III, while the Bullpups had their five-game winning streak snapped, not to mention they are now 4-1 in division play.
“The more aggressive team won tonight,” Strathman said. “They were able to get to the foul line more than we did.”
Buhler made 19 of 27 from the stripe while the Bullpups didn’t even hit double figures in attempts, finishing the game 6 of 9.
The game played out just as many expected. The Bullpups took a tenuous 25-23 lead into the half and were up 28-25 when they went ice-cold, going the last 5:49 of the third period without a point to trail 31-28.
Behind the solid inside play of Kellie Burns, the Crusaders extended the lead to as many as eight before the Bullpups sliced it in half, 40-36, with 1:13 to go. But any thoughts of a miracle rally ended as the Crusaders closed it out at the line, including 4 of 4 in the final 41.7 seconds.
“Give Buhler credit. They did a good job of scouting us,” Strathman said.
MHS, now 6-2 overall, still has a return engagement at the Roundhouse next month and has already has finished play with the other D-III top contender Winfield, so it’s still in the title hunt.
Freshman Taylor Robertson led MHS with nine points, but was held to just 3 of 13 from the field after entering the game shooting better than 55 percent. Cassidy Wedel and Emma Yowell added eight points apiece.
Yowell had a terrific game on defense as normal Bullpup tormentor Alex Keller couldn’t shake loose from her, finishing the game without a single point. Strathman said Yowell time and again was in great defensive position to deny her a path to the basket.
Burns followed Steffen with 14 points.
MHS won the B-team 55-31 behind 13 points by Kamryn Collins, 12 by Mandi Cooks and 11 by Ally Ulsaker. There was no C-game as Buhler was short of players due to injuries and illness.
The Bullpups stay on the road Friday at Rose Hill.
MHS (42) — Schmidt 0-5, 0-0, 0; Wedel 4-6, 0-0, 8; Yowell 3-5, 0-2, 8; Hoffman 2-6, 0-0, 4; Schieferecke 1-4, 2-2, 4; Ulsaker 1-2, 0-0, 2; Robertson 3-13, 1-1, 9; M. Cooks 2-2, 1-2, 5; B. Cooks 0-2, 2-2, 2. Totals — 16-45, 6-9, 42. 3-pointers — Yowell 2, Robertson 2.
Buhler (47) — Steffen 4-10, 11-13, 21; Dornsch 1-1 2-2, 4; Keller 0-2, 0-2, 0; Boll 1-5, 1-3, 3; Rohr 2-6, 1-3, 5; Burns 5-6, 4-4, 14. Totals — 13-30, 19-27, 47. 3-pointers — Steffen 2.
MHS JV (55) — P. Schmidt 3, Collins 13, Heidebrecht 1, Bruner 2, Crist 4, Gabel 4, Ulsaker 11, Schrader 3, M. Schmidt 2, Cooks 12.