Bullpup boys can join exclusive club

By Steve Sell
March 10, 2015

It's an exclusive club, even by McPherson High's rarefied standards.

And it could possibly admit a new member very soon.

Where this current MHS boys basketball team will rank among the all-time teams in the Bullpups’ tradition-rich history will ultimately be determined by its performance in this week’s state tournament at Salina’s Bicentennial Center.

What it does have a chance to do, however, is become only the third MHS boys team to complete a perfect regular season since records have been kept starting in 1937.

The 1990 MHS team went 24-0. The road to perfection was fraught with peril at the end of the season after basically overwhelming teams for 18 games.

Win No. 19 was a one-point escape in the first round of the sub-state against Buhler on the Crusaders’ home court and then at state, the Bullpups won back-to-back overtime games in the semifinals and finals, respectively. The 'Pups edged Hays 70-66 in the semifinals, then squeaked past Kansas City Harmon 55-48 in the finals.

The Bullpups graduated some really good seniors off that team in Andy Berlin (16.9 points), T.J. Underwood (8.9) , Chris Potter (7.8) and Ryan Hayes (valuable off the bench). However it also included juniors Brian Henson (18.0) and Bryan Vincent (11.7). All but four of its games were decided by double digits.

The 1990 team was the forerunner for what I still believe is the best team in MHS history, the 1991 team that shook off a third-game overtime loss to Hutchinson to win its final 21. The Bullpups’ average margin of victory at state that year was just over 22 points, including a 79-56 rout of Liberal in the championship game. Other than the loss to Hutch, only one team played it within double digits — a one-pointer against Newton.

The other undefeated MHS team was a group I liked to refer to as the “Cerebral Assassins” of 1994. While not as physically gifted as the teams of the previous four years, this group relied on amazing chemistry and the ability to never beat itself, as it mastered the art of execution.

This team does hold the record for most wins (25) and it really had only one close call all year — a 40-38 overtime victory over Class 6A Derby in the final game of the regular season.

What was amazing about this team was that it won 22 of its 25 games by double digits. At state, the Bullpups wiped out Highland Park (76-59), Blue Valley Stilwell (64-36) and Kansas City Schlagle (77-63).

The Bullpups played three guards — Eric Schultz, Erik Vogel and Josh Alexander – who joined inside players Brian Grant and Tim Herrs.

Teamwork was the hallmark of this unit. It was balanced — three players averaged double figures — and shot it so well. Schultz averaged 15.5, Grant 12.8 and Herrs 11.3. All the starters except for Alexander were seniors, as he was just starting one of the great careers in MHS history as he was a sophomore.

Some McPherson purists have told me, though, only the 1990 and 1994 teams can be considered in the talk for the best ever because they were undefeated, but I respectfully disagree. That's the beauty of having so many talented teams over the past-near 80 years, it's all so subjective and there are really no wrong answers.

Since 1956, MHS also has had 13 teams finish with just one loss. Just think about that, the Bullpups weren’t that far off from having 15 undefeated teams in its history. 

Five teams have only lost two games in a season and seven other teams have lost just three games.

Time will only tell if this year's team can be the third unbeaten in Bullpup history. Then let the discussion begin where it ranks on the list.