There’s a very real possibility that McPherson High’s girls may have lost to the 2015 Class 6A state champions in the title game of the 20th annual Mid America Classic Saturday night.
Precision-like Olathe South never panicked when pushed by the upstart Bullpups, who battled the three-time Classic champions within a point for a half.
But after making some halftime adjustments, the Falcons scored the first 10 points of the second half before having to withstand a Taylor Robertson-led rally in the fourth quarter for a deceiving 56-41 victory.
South, which is 12-0 all-time in the Classic as it now numbers four championships, outscored MHS 13-5 in the final 3 1/2 minutes, most of those points coming because the Bullpups had to foul and the Falcons were gold at the line, finishing the game making 21 of 27 free throws.
Still, it was a valiant MHS effort, as it proved it could give perhaps the state’s best team all it wanted.
“Except for that stretch to open the (second) half, we definitely played right with them,” said MHS coach Chris Strathman, whose team is now 9-4 on the season with all the losses coming to ranked teams. “I probably waited too long to call a timeout (in the third quarter) and switch out of our man (defense). They had some rhythm going and kept running the same set and we weren’t stopping it.”
The Bullpups were down only 19-18 at the half, even with Robertson scoring just two points — those coming with 2 seconds left before the break.
South, just as it did on Friday when it quickly erased Manhattan’s five-point lead, turned up the heat to start the second half and in a blink of an eye the Bullpups found themselves down 32-19. In fact, MHS went the entire third quarter without a field goal as all the points in the period came from the line.
“They gave us all we wanted. That (the start of the second half) was a big part of the game,” Olathe South coach Steve Ingram said. “That’s probably the second-most important part of a game. We had pretty good focus coming out. Basically we just wanted to execute a little better.”
Down 32-22 going into the fourth, Robertson and the Bullpups came alive. She had a stretch where she scored nine points in less than four minutes as the Bullpups got within seven. But MHS then sent Kacey Kennett to the foul line continuously and she responded, finishing the game making 10 of 11 and scored 19 points total. All-Tournament Dejanae Roebuck tallied 12 points.
Robertson scored 14, 12 in the second half. The Falcons got very physical with her, with Zoe Matje staying with her most of the game. MHS’ inside game dried up in the second half and the Bullpups finished the game 11 of 33 from the field, though they were solid at the line making 15 of 18 — 7 of 8 by Robertson. “She played really, really well. She didn’t back down,” Strathman said.
Robertson was the tournament’s high scorer with 51 points and was the Bullpups’ representative on the All-Tournament Team.
Strathman had high praise for the Falcons.
“They are very versatile and very difficult to defend,” Strathman said. “We knew that going in. How many other 4A teams can say they played a 6A Top 4 team and played them well? We competed fine with them. There’s not very many teams that can say that.”
The Falcons turned it over only six times, but couldn’t get MHS to turn it over, either, as the Bullpups had just 10. Madison Hoffman had another excellent floor game as she really stepped up in this tournament to assume command of the offense.
Ingram came away impressed with the Bullpups.
“They’ve got a good future ahead of them,” he said. “Robertson is very talented — very talented. Number 40 (Mandi Cooks) is a good-looking freshman. They’re going to have a great year this year. Chris does a great job coaching them. I think they’ll be in the state tournament.”
MHS is off until Friday when Dodge City comes to town for a rematch of this past Friday’s Classic game the Bullpups won by 18.
MHS (41) — Schmidt 1-3, 0-0, 3; Wedel 1-2, 1-2, 4; Yowell 1-2, 0-0, 3; Collins 0-2, 4-4, 4; Hoffman 1-3, 1-2, 3; Schieferecke 2-7, 0-0, 4; Robertson 3-10, 7-8, 14; M. Cooks 2-4, 2-2, 6. Totals — 11-33, 15-18, 41. 3-pointers — Schmidt 1, Wedel 1, Robertson 1, Yowell 1.
Olathe South (56) — Gooch 0-1, 0-0, 0; Holder 1-9, 4-7, 6; Matje 1-6, 0-1, 2; Kennett 4-7, 10-11, 19; Duncan 3-3, 3-3, 9; Roebuck 4-6, 4-5, 12; Morton 4-7, 0-0, 8. Totals — 17-39, 21-27, 56. 3-pointers — Kennett 1.