Friday night’s 34-19 Class 4A sub-state win over Clay Center wasn’t pretty, but the McPherson High girls got the job done, advancing to the finals this evening at Abilene High School.
The Pups started out a little rough, with a number of mental errors on offense causing turnovers, though the MHS defense really prevented the Tigers from taking much advantage.
“We weren’t really aggressive to start,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “We shot a few quick threes that just didn’t go through. But defensively, out girls played some strong defense.”
McPherson trailed 5-0 for the first 5:30 of play before senior Katelyn Loecker was able to drop a pair of free throws. A quick Clay Center turn over gave Loecker two more, pulling the Pups to within one.
Hailey Ruder put through two more free throws in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter, giving McPherson a 6-5 lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way out.
Clay Center (18-4) kept it interesting in the early stages of the second quarter, though, with neither team able to score any points in the first three minutes of play. Hailey Ruder and Abby Pedersen both dropped three pointers in back-to-back fashion to spark a 7-2 Bullpup run, though, that gave them a 16-8 lead at the half.
Pedersen would sink a three-point dagger with 4:35 left in the third, giving McPherson a 26-15 advantage going into the fourth, where the defense absolutely clamped down, allowing only four Tiger points in the final quarter.
Strathman said his Bullpups were ready, defensively, thanks to the scouting reports on Clay Center.
“Our scouts really prepared the girls these last couple of days in practice,” Strathman said.
“You have to give our girls a lot of credit. They played really well tonight.”
Loecker led the Pups in scoring with 13 points, which included a perfect 7-of-7 night from the foul line. Ruder added 10 in the winning effort.
The win sets MHS (18-3) up for a showdown with top-seeded Hesston in the sub-state finals tonight at 6 p.m. at Abilene High School.
“They’re really good,” Strathman said. “They’ve only lost two all year and have a lot of offensive weapons.”
The Swathers advanced by virtue of a 54-31 dismantling of host Abilene in the late game Friday.