There once was a time when Great Bend was the most anticipated opponent on the McPherson High boys’ basketball schedule.
When the Bullpups weren’t winning the Class 5A state title, the Panthers were. Great Bend won back-to-back 5A titles in 2005 and 2006. During that stretch of years, MHS won titles in 2003 and 2011 — two of their 12 overall.
In fact in the 2006 season, the Panthers pulled off a rarity in that they defeated the Bullpups twice, after having also toppled MHS in 2005. The first came during the regular season, then Great Bend knocked off MHS in the state tournament semifinals.
But how times have changed.
Once coach Jeff Langehr left Great Bend, he took with him the Panthers’ good fortune. When the teams meet on Tuesday in Great Bend, the Panthers come in with a 2-12 record. Their most recent loss was a 53-45 decision to Liberal, which came on the heels of a 68-36 loss to Salina Central.
Great Bend did give Manhattan a decent game earlier in the year, losing only 47-36. The Bullpups defeated Manhattan 81-58 in the finals of the McPherson Invitational.
MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said the key will be to find where 6-3 Cody Crosby is on the floor. Crosby is reputed to be an outstanding shooter.
Another key for the Bullpups will be focus. Knowing they play a team that has had little success, Kinnanon believes MHS needs to jump on the Panthers early and not give them a semblance of hope.
The girls’ game probably will be the featured attraction. The 10-4 Bullpups should get a push from the 7-7 Panthers, who have played some tough competition.
“They have lost twice to Manhattan, then to Dodge City, Garden City, Derby, all 6A schools,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “The other two losses are Salina Central and Topeka Seaman. They have played a good schedule.”
The Panthers could pose some problems.
“We will have to be ready to handle good, pressure man defense with some traps mixed in, and guard the dribble-drive motion offense,” Strathman said. “Their top scorer, at least their last four games anyway, has been Lauren Welsch, a 5-8 lefty guard. She had two straight 25-point games in the Emporia tournament, so she has been playing very well recently.”
The Bullpups are coming off a methodical win over Dodge City in which they were again pushed for a half before taking off and hiding in the third quarter. The Red Demons did score 23 fourth-quarter points for cosmetic purposes.
Freshmen Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks scored 23 and 15 points, respectively, as Strathman had them on the floor together more than at any other time this year.
Tipoff for the girls is 6 p.m., with 96.7 KBBE-FM coverage starting at 5:45.
Also there’s quirk in the schedule for the girls in that the C-game will be at 5:30, with the JV game at 4.