The McPherson High School girls’ basketball team won’t really need to spend much more time this week working on free throws.
The Lady Bullpups went to the foul line 44 times Tuesday night, making 70.5 percent of their shots on the way to a 60-55 win over rival Buhler at the McPherson High Roundhouse.
It was the first loss for Buhler this season, as the Crusaders fall to 5-1.
Appropriately enough, the scoring both began and ended with MHS free throws, as Abby Pedersen hit both of hers a minute into the game, while Hannah Willems put the exclamation point on the win by sinking both of hers with 4.5 seconds left in the game.
Pedersen would go 10-for-10 at the foul line before missing her first one with 48.4 seconds left to go in the game. She finished 11-for-12 from the foul line, with 21 points overall. As a team, MHS (2-3, 2-0 AVCTL Division III) made their first 11 foul shot over the first two quarters.
“[Pedersen] just looked so relaxed at the line tonight,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “Every time. It was just very, very confident. A lot of the time, when [you make your first 11 free throws], everybody just relaxes and goes, ‘OK, we can all make our free throws.’ And Abby was a big part of that.”
McPherson trailed Buhler only briefly in the first quarter, before Ally Ulsaker hit both of her foul shots with a minute left in the opening stanza to give the Pups a 10-8 lead.
Pedersen drilled a wide-open three to follow up that made it a five point McPherson lead, which MHS wouldn’t relent the rest of the game.
McPherson did make a run on Buhler in the third and fourth quarters after leading 26-16 at the half. The Bullpups pushed their lead out to 11 points about halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders fought back, even with most of their scoring offense facing foul troubles.
Alex Keller was the main driving force in the Buhler comeback in the third and fourth quarters, as she was making plays happen on both offense and defense. Unfortunately for Buhler, she fouled out of the game with 2:50 left to go in the game, finishing with a team-high 19 points.
Jessica Steffen would foul out for Buhler seconds later, followed by Kaley Dick.
The Pups shot 8-for-12 from the foul line down the stretch to hold off the Buhler comeback and win 60-55.
“We knew they would make a run,” Strathman said of the Buhler comeback. “They’re too good of a team not to. But we helped them out a little bit on some situations, also. Fouling when we shouldn’t, losing shooters when we shouldn’t, things like that. But, overall, our kids competed really well. They communicated better on the floor than they have all year. The bench was enthusiastic and into the game the whole night. The kids performed. They did a great job.”
Page 2 of 2 - Pedersen led all scorers with her 21 points and was one of four Bullpups in double figures. Willems finished with 13 points, while Paige Schmidt came off the bench for 11 and Janae Barnes added 10. Barnes also very nearly picked up a double-double, as she had nine rebounds.
The Pups shot 12-for-26 from the field, while Buhler was 15-for-33. McPherson also finished 31-for-44 from the foul line, while Buhler was 18-for-30. The Pups also out-rebounded the Crusaders 28-20.
Schmidt had a banner night for McPherson, as she also scored 13 points in the JV game, which MHS won 59-14. Emma Yowell also had 13 points in the JV win.
The freshmen completed the Buhler sweep, as they won 41-26. Morgan Howard had the hot hand, as she scored 17 for MHS.
Only one day of rest and practice for McPherson, as they are back at the Roundhouse for a special Thursday night game against Hutchinson. Tip off is at 6 p.m.
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.