The Mid America Classic is no longer a teenager.
It’s hard to believe the Classic turns 20 today. It seems like only yesterday the trial run of the tournament, hosted by the McPherson Optimist Club, became an instant hit and immediately earned its place among the best tournaments in Kansas, certainly the most efficiently run.
In the beginning, McPherson High, county and area schools were included. It was back when Little River and Moundridge were among the best teams in the state, regardless of class, and Inman wasn’t that far removed from having won a state title. The crowds proved this was a badly needed tournament, as the doors were closed for the championship game the first year as the Roundhouse was swelled to capacity.
McPherson High didn’t win its first Classic title until the fourth year. The Bullpups lost in the first two title games to Little River (which could have beaten any team in any class) and the third year it was the Laurie Koehn-led Moundridge Wildcats who prevailed.
After those early years, some of the area schools became less competitive and grew weary of basically having no chance to win as McPherson ran off nine titles in a row. It has evolved into a tournament more like the boys, in which bigger schools have been added to strengthen the field.
This year, four of the eight teams are ranked, including 6A schools Olathe South and Manhattan, while MHS and Andale are ranked in Class 4A Division I.
Three of the games today appear to be cut and dry, but the host Bullpups should expect a push in their game. Dodge City comes in undefeated in the WAC and is 5-4 overall. It played the Bullpups tough last year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it goes down to the wire.
With that said, here’s how I see the tournament playing out:
1. Olathe South — Even without KU commit Kylee Kopatich, lost for the year with a knee injury, never bet against the Falcons. They have never lost a game here.
2. McPherson — After a first-round scare, the Bullpups will avenge their loss of last week and end Andale’s undefeated streak.
3. Manhattan — Last year’s champs won’t repeat.
4. Andale — It’s tough coming into a tournament undefeated and leaving with two losses, but I think it’s going to happen.
5. Dodge City — Dodge should cruise through the consolation bracket.
6. Valley Center — The Hornets always have good athletes.
7. Hays — McPherson High’s coaching staff will be watching the Indians closely since they could see them at the sub-state next month.
8. Wichita Southeast – The Buffs enter with just one win.
• TODAY’S SCHEDULE •
3:00 — Olathe South vs. Hays
4:30 — Manhattan vs. Valley Center
6:00 — Andale vs. Wichita Southeast
7:30 — Dodge City vs. McPherson