The McPherson High girls held up their end, destroying Hays 68-28, to set up a blockbuster semifinal showdown with Class 6A No. 1 Olathe South tonight in the semifinals of the Mid America Classic.
The long layoff between the Circle High game Jan. 15 and Thursday looked to do the Bullpups a world of good, as everyone started off crisp and playing with an intensity that left the Indians reeling in the rematch from last year's Classic championship, which the Pups won 52-42.
"(The Bullpups) were ready to go against someone other than their teammates," MHS head coach Chris Strathman said. "The first half was really sharp."
It was a bit of a slow start off the blocks, but when McPherson started rolling, the Indians were helpless to stop the high-powered offense led by senior forward Katelyn Loecker, who scored 12 of her game high 17 points in the first half.
Abby Pedersen, Hailey Ruder and Moira Pyle all added three-pointers throughout the two periods and the defense cracked down hard on Hays, allowing only seven total points.
The score at the half was 42-7, with McPherson shooting 17-of-28 from the field. Hays managed only three buckets on 16 attempts.
The Bullpups backed off noticeably in the third quarter, allowing the Indians to win the period 17-8. That only served to re-up the Bullpup intensity, however, as MHS poured on another 18 points in the final quarter, while holding Hays to a mere four points as the final buzzer sounded.
McPherson finished at 53.3 percent from the field on 24-of-45 shooting, including 7-of-14 from beyond the arc. The Pups were 13-of-18 from the foul line.
Rebounding was fairly close, with MHS holding a 28-24 advantage, but the Bullpup offense forced 27 Indian turnovers to their own 15.
"They were active," Strathman said of his team's efforts. "A lot of loose balls on the floor and they were going after them. They were just ready to go."
Pedersen was the only other Bullpup that finished in double-figures with 12, though the scoring was spread out amongst nine other players.
Emily Braun and Janae Gagnon were the closest Hays players to double digits with nine points, each.
The win for McPherson (9-2) sets up a showdown with Olathe South tonight at 7:30 p.m.
"(The Bullpups) definitely wanted the opportunity to have that marquee-type match up," Strathman said.
Strathman acknowledged the contest could be a fast-paced game, as both teams like to move quickly up and down thecourt.
"At the same time," he said, "it may end up being one of those slugfest games, too. We're both really good defensively at half court. They'll do a good job of taking our strengths away and, hopefully, we'll do a good job of taking their strengths away."
Page 2 of 2 - McPherson and Olathe South last tangled in 2011, with the Falcons winning 63-60.
"If (tonight) is as competitive as that game was," Strathman said, "then our fans and Olathe South's fans will be treated to a nice game."
Hays (5-6) will face Dodge City in the 4:30 p.m. consolation game this afternoon at the Roundhouse.
Hays — Schlaefli 0-0 2-4 2; Gagnon 4-10 0-3 9; Herman 2-3 0-0 4; Johnson 1-3 0-0 2; Braun 4-6 1-4 9; Schumacher 1-10 0-0 2.
McPherson — Ruder 2-3 0-0 6; Pyle 2-3 0-0 6; Bate 1-2 2-2 4; Willems 4-7 0-0 9; Pedersen 5-9 0-0 12; Barnes 3-6 1-2 7; Hoffman 0-0 4-4 4; Loecker 6-14 5-8 17; Cooks 1-1 1-2 3.