HAYS — The KSHSAA could have saved everybody a lot of time.
At least for the McPherson High and Buhler girls as Friday proved to be little more than a light workout.
As expected, both the Bullpups and Crusaders had first-round Class 4A Division I sub-state running-clock walkovers, MHS defeating Ulysses 57-25 while the Crusaders won by nearly the same score over host Hays, 57-23.
So, the highly anticipated deciding game is on. The Bullpups and Crusaders meet at 6 p.m. Saturday for the right to advance to Salina. Unlike last year when MHS swept the trilogy, this game on a neutral court determines which team is the best once and for all.
Both teams are 17-4 on the year. Buhler won the first meeting at home, 47-42, while the Bullpups returned the favor at the Roundhouse, 51-49.
The night followed MHS coach Chris Strathman’s blueprint, as his reserves played nearly the equal number of minutes as the starters. The starters, led by Ashtyn Schieferecke’s 11 points and 10 more by Bri Cooks, scored 34 and the balanced bench supplied 23.
The Bullpups dominated the game from the start as the Tigers had no player taller than 5-8 and MHS pounded away at the interior of the Ulysses defense.
“That was our clear advantage, our size inside,” Strathman said. “They kind of junked it up on us (defensively) with trying to take (leading scorer) Taylor (Robertson) away and they did a good job of that. We didn’t force it to her either and we weren’t going to show everything that we’d like to run.”
MHS led 17-8 after a period, 34-11 by half. The running clock, because of the 30-point rule, kicked in at the 6:08 mark of the final period.
The patient Bullpups were 19 of 35 from the field and a crisp 15 of 18 at the line. Their defense was stifling as the Tigers were a frigid 9 of 51 (field) and 6 of 14 (line).
There won’t be any secrets between MHS and Buhler since this is their sixth meeting in two years. The cast of characters are familiar, it’s just which team can make more plays. One team will move on to state and the other will go home knowing it should be at state and that’s it’s a victim of the sub-state system.
“There’s some little adjustments that we have looked at and I’m sure they’ve looked at some things that can take away some of our stuff, too,” Strathman said. “It’s a little bit of a chess match... that’s what makes it so much fun.”
MHS’ fans are expected to make the near-2-hour trek since their boys are also playing Hays for the championship in the second game, which has a scheduled 7:30 start, but it figures to be closer to 7:45.
McPherson fans should take note, the Hays gym is very small, so plan on getting there about a half-hour prior to the 6 p.m. opener.
MHS (57) — Schmidt 1-4, 4-5, 7; Wedel 2-3, 2-2, 6; Yowell 0-3, 0-0, 0; Collins 2-3, 2-2, 6; Hoffman 0-1, 0-0, 0; Schieferecke 4-7, 3-4, 11; Ulsaker 0-1, 0-0, 0; Robertson 2-3, 1-1, 7; M. Cooks 3-4, 1-2, 7; B. Cooks 4-5, 2-2, 10; Gabel 1-1, 0-0, 3. Totals — 19-35, 15-18, 57. 3-pointers — Robertson 2, Schmidt 1, Gabel 1.
Ulysses (25) — Payne 0-2, 0-0, 0; Gallegos 1-13, 2-5, 4; Arnold 3-9, 0-2, 6; Najera 0-4, 0-0, 0; Kenny 3-16, 1-1, 8; Pfingsten 1-3, 2-4, 4; Calderwood 1-3, 1-2, 3; Meile 0-1, 0-0, 0. Totals — 9-51, 6-14, 25. 3-pointers — Kenny 1.