McPherson High's girls and Buhler are separated by only 18 miles, but the teams are probably going to have to travel nearly 150 miles to determine who is the best.
In a game that lived up or even exceeded expectations, the Bullpups earned a share of the AVCTL Division III championship Friday before a standing-room-only Senior Night crowd with a heart-stopping 51-49 victory, avenging an earlier loss.
Both teams were 9-1 in league play.
And the Bullpups won off the court as well. Because the teams had the same overall record at 16-4, a coin flip was needed to determine the No. 1 seed for next week's sub-state and MHS won, which means it'll play Ulysses at 6 p.m. Friday in Hays, while the hosts play Buhler.
"It (the win) can only help us," MHS coach Chris Strathman said. "(Buhler) Coach (Jon) McLean and I were talking before the game that we both needed this (type of game). The other league schools have not always challenged us to be honest… it was everything as advertised."
The Bullpups found themselves down early 13-4, but used a 12-3 run — highlighted by a pair of Emma Yowell 3-pointers — to inch ahead 26-24 at the half.
The teams could have played the second half in a phone booth, as no more than four points ever separated them.
Down 47-45, the Bullpups' Madison Hoffman came up with a steal, scored and drew the foul with 1:33 to go. She completed the 3-point play for a 48-47 lead, one MHS would never give up.
"That was the play of the game. I told Madison that afterwards," Strathman said. "She just completely swung the momentum of that game…that was a big-time moment for a senior and I was very proud of Madison. Thirteen points tonight was a career-high for her, I believe. She played very well."
With 12 seconds left and MHS up 50-49, Hoffman was fouled and missed the first free throw, but made the second. Buhler got the ball in the hands of All-Stater Jessica Steffen, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer appeared to be on line, but rimmed off.
Hoffman's 13 points led the Bullpups, while Mandi Cooks scored 12 and Ashtyn Schieferecke added 11 as MHS was able to score more inside than the first meeting.
Steffen who was hounded all night by Hoffman, led Buhler with 14, Alex Keller added 12 and Morgan Rohr chipped in with 11 before fouling out.
The MHS JVs of coach Mike Reith finished off a 15-0 season with a 48-25 triumph. Ally Ulsaker's 10 points led the way and 10 Bullpups in all scored.
There was no C-game due to a lack of player for Buhler.
MHS (51) — Schmidt 0-1, 0-0, 0; Wedel 0-2, 0-0, 0; Yowell 2-5, 0-0, 6; Collins 0-1, 2-2, 2; Hoffman 3-7, 6-7, 13; Schieferecke 4-6, 3-5, 11; Ulsaker 0-1, 0-0, 0; Robertson 3-10, 0-0, 7; M. Cooks 5-6, 2-2, 12; B. Cooks 0-2, 0-0, 0. Totals — 17-41, 13-16, 51. 3-pointers — Yowell 2, Hoffman 1, Robertson 1.
Buhler (49) — Steffen 5-12, 3-4, 14; Domsch 1-2, 0-0, 2; Keller 3-11, 6-8, 12; Boll 1-1, 0-0, 2; Rohr 4-7, 3-4, 11; Burns 4-9, 0-0, 8. Totals — 18-42, 12-16, 49. 3-pointers — Steffen 1.
MHS JV (48) — Schmidt 3, Yowell 4, Collins 7, Bruner 5, Hein 2, Crist 6, Gabel 4, Ulsaker 10, Schrader 6, M. Schmidt 1.