ABILENE — A sluggish start from McPherson High School combined with lethal shooting form Abilene gave the home crowd plenty to cheer for in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game.

The second quarter, however, was considerably less eventful for the fans in orange and brown.

The Cowgirls were held scoreless in the second quarter, partly due to defensive adjustments by McPherson and partly due to Abilene cooling off after a hot start. When all was said and done, the Bullpups were victorious over previously undefeated Abilene, 53-36.

The Bullpups picked up the win to improve to 3-1 on the season, but a slow start and a few lapses defensively tells head coach Chris Strathman where his team can improve.

“We did a very bad job of ball-screen defense in the first quarter,” Strathman said. “That got better, but we weren’t staying aggressive on those. The last three quarters we outscored them 41-20, so we obviously did finish the game up better, but we did not start well tonight. That’s something we’ll need to get better at.”

Abilene came out firing and connected on a couple early 3-pointers. McPherson’s Riley Hett responded with a 3-point play to give the Bullpups a one-point lead midway through the quarter. However, the Cowgirls finished the first quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 16-11 lead into the second quarter.

The Bullpups did a better job of contesting shots on the perimeter, but the Cowgirls still had their chances. Despite holding the Cowgirls off the scoreboard in the second quarter, Strathman knows his team still could have played better defense.

“They still had a few good looks,” Strathman said, “they just didn’t go in. It’s not like we were perfect defensively, but we did get better.”

The Bullpups took the lead with 5:48 in the half off an Emma Ruddle 3-point play. They would not surrender the lead from there, but the Bullpups did not truly separate themselves until late in the third quarter.

The Bullpups entered the fourth quarter up by 11 and ended the game with a 17-point win.

Taylor Robertson led the Bullpups with 23 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc. Cassie Cooks overcame a slow start to finish with 14 points, eight of which came in the second quarter.

When Cooks is not matched up against Division I prospects like she was against Derby and Bishop Miege, Strathman expects her to overpower her opponents in the paint.

“We need some inside scoring, and right now Cassie is the one who can provide that the best,” Strathman said. “She’ll struggle to score against length like we saw against Derby and Miege, but against most teams she’ll be able to score inside and be fine.”

The Bullpups welcome Winfield to the Roundhouse on Friday.

Contact Gallagher Martin by email at gmartin@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel