There’s going to be times — like Tuesday — when McPherson High’s girls play like their actual youth and not beyond it.
The Bullpups have done a good job for most of the season displaying a poise that belies their years.
But Tuesday night, they ran into an experienced Buhler team heck-bent on revenge. The Crusaders probably had had enough of losing to MHS, including 26 of the last 30 games between the teams, including three numbing losses last year that had them fuming as they could only be spectators at the state tournament.
Buhler used a surge late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter to come away with a 47-42 victory, which propelled it into first place in AVCTL Division III.
The Bullpups start only two seniors and have three total and arguably their best player is a freshman while another freshman is an important piece to the puzzle. The Crusaders’ production came completely from seniors and juniors and they have to feel this is their year to make a deep run.
This was only the Bullpups’ second true road game and third overall, as they played a netural-site game in Kansas City. This also happened to be against their arch-rival in a hostile environment.
The Bullpups have another difficult road assignment next week at undefeated Andale, then will face at least two quality teams in the Mid America Classic. MHS could very well be on the same side of the bracket as 6A power Olathe South, though the Falcons have been weakened by the season-ending injury to Kansas commit Kylee Kopatich, who caused jaws to drop in the Classic two years ago.
Tuesday’s game and the upcoming Classic should serve the Bullpups well. They don’t get a whole lot better playing teams like El Dorado, Augusta and Rose Hill in Division III. It’s these tougher games that will make them grow up in a hurry, as well as games after the Classic against teams like Hutchinson and Great Bend.
As poorly as the Bullpups shot it Tuesday, they were still right there. I can guarantee that freshman Taylor Robertson probably won’t have another shooting performance like she did when she was 3 of 13, including some wide-open misses from 3-point that she normally makes like point-blank layups. Buhler put senior standout Alex Keller on her and she’s a quality and much-stronger athlete, while Robertson is just starting to scratch her incredible surface. She is still in the infant stages of her career and it’s probably asking too much of her right now to shoulder the load in crunch time of a big game.
The game actually was lost by MHS’ inability to score inside from 3 feet or less. I counted at least eight missed “bunnies,” and had it finished, it probably would have won the game.
This game should send Buhler’s confidence soaring though. One of its players was quoted in The Hutchinson News today as saying, “We’re so pumped. Just because they’ve always said things to us. We hear the things they say. We kind of shut them up.”
Buhler did indeed earn the right to talk the talk because they walked the walk. That should make for a dandy return engagement when the teams meet on the final night of the regular season at the Roundhouse. Then they could very well meet again in the sub-state finals at Hays, which is the game that will mean the most.