D-III girls' lead on the line Friday at Towanda

By Steve Sell
January 14, 2021

It’s not often the McPherson High girls enter a basketball game with a lesser record than their opponent, but that will be the case on Friday when the Bullpups travel to Towanda to take on Circle.

This has become a rite of the season in recent years as the Bullpups and T-Birds have separated themselves from the rest of the AVCTL Division III pack. How MHS and Circle fare in the head-to-head matchups has been the determining factor in the league race, with the Bullpups having come out on the long end.

Tip time is 6:00, with all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM with “Voice of the Bullpups” Nathan Sage on the call. This will be the Bullpups’ last game before the Mid America Classic as their Tuesday game at Andover Central has been postponed due to COVID for the Jaguars.

MHS is 6-2 on the year compared to 6-1 for Circle, while both teams are 4-0 in league play as Friday’s clash completes the first half of the league schedule for both teams. The Bullpups and T-Birds both basically have run over Buhler, El Dorado, Winfield and Augusta.

“Circle is going to be a real challenge on the road this Friday,” MHS coach Christ Strathman said. “They return some very good players who are performing at a high level. Kimmalee Cook is averaging right at 20 points per game and is a very fast and skilled point guard. She is able to score, but also forces help so much that she is able to make her teammates much better as well. Madi Michaelis is another guard averaging nearly 13 points per game.  We will have our hands full with those two on the perimeter, but they also have some nice post players that we will have to guard well. They don't really have people that you can play off of and dare them to make plays, so they are a well-balanced team.”

There’s good news for the MHS boys on Friday as head coach Kurt Kinnamon will be back on the sidelines after missing two games due to COVID protocol.

“I am good to go on Friday. Feel great and obviously excited to get back,” Kinnamon said. “Being around kids has always given me the juice and I have missed that tremendously when I was sick. After missing two games, I feel like a little kid at Christmas.”

The Bullpups will be trying to bounce back from Tuesday’s disappointing 52-47 road loss to Augusta, a game the Bullpups led for the first three quarters before collapsing under the weight of a 22-9 rush in the fourth quarter by the Orioles. Kinnamon watched the game on the stream and saw some positives.

“I thought we played much harder and faster against Augusta,” he said. “Defensively we were locked in and our kids did a good job especially shutting down (Ely) Wilcox. We have to do a better job both offensively and defensively down the stretch.”

Circle is always an entertaining matchup for the Bullpups as the T-Birds like to play fast. They have won their last two games, 71-52 over Winfield (which took MHS into overtime) and 74-70 over El Dorado. The Bullpups have bogged down offensively since Christmas, scoring just 50 and 47 points, respectively, a far cry from the 74 they scored against Buhler before the break.

“Circle has two really good guards,” Kinnamon said. “(Drew) Middleton actually took 19 3-point attempts by himself against El Dorado. We have to do a good job of containing guys off the bounce so that we do not have to leave those shooters. Offensively, we still want to use our ability in the open floor to get to the rim or to find open shooters and then knock down shots.”

Middleton scored 31 in the win over El Dorado.

The Bullpups turn right around on Monday and take on Manhattan at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the McPherson Invitational, which is a Monday-Thursday-Saturday event due to COVID.