Tuesday night, the McPherson High School girls basketball team will put a seven game winning streak to the test when top-ranked Newton (9-0) invades the McPherson Roundhouse for a girls only game.
McPherson and Newton have not met since the sub-state finals of 2011, although the two schools used to have a heavy rivalry when the Bullpups were in Class 5A.
“I am excited to have Newton back on our regular schedule as it has been too long since we played them,” head coach Chris Strathman said. “I am most impressed by their overall athleticism as a team, to go along with their size, this makes them very versatile on both ends of the floor.”
Leading scorer DesiRay Kernal grabbed Strathman’s attention first and foremost. The 5-foot-11 sophomore guard is averaging about 10 points a game. Her combination of size and athleticism has created matchup problems for every team Newton has faced.
The Railers will also bring 6 foot 3 Abby Schmidt off the bench for some overwhelming size. Strathman said the key to slowing her down is applying ball pressure on the passers and proper post-defense positioning.
As a team, Newton will try and slow down the high octane McPherson offense. The Bullpups love to start blistering fast and work with a lead the rest of the game.
Strathman is anticipating Newton will simply not allow that to happen.
“We have been very pleased with how we have started games; [we] have been focused and sharp, and have put teams on their heels,” Strathman said. “Newton will be able to respond better overall to our pressure than other teams have, as they have the kids that are athletic and skilled enough to handle things. We know we still want to play with good pace, but Newton just doesn’t allow that to happen as easy as some of our opponents during our win streak. We will have to adjust some things on the fly for sure.”
McPherson-Newton also features two of the hottest teams in the state. While Newton is undefeated thus far, the Bullpups have not lost since their Dec. 9 meeting with Bishop Miege.
The two teams have a couple of common opponents in Derby and Buhler. The Bullpups were able to handle Derby by 13 points earlier in the year, while Newton is coming off a nine-point home win over the Panthers. Neither team had any trouble with Buhler.
Tuesday night will be the last game the Bullpups play until the Mid America Classic on Jan. 26. The Bullpups should draw a favorable first round opponent, but Strathman knows anything after that will be a dog fight.
“As we head into our tournament next week, this will be a great test,” Strathman said. “Depending on how the bracket shapes up and if we take care of business in the first round next week, we would have a chance to play the No. 1 5A team (Newton) and then two top four 6A teams (Manhattan and Olathe South) in the span of our next four games. That could be an extremely difficult challenge for our girls, but I think we would be up for it, knowing it could help prepare us well for a good run in the 4A postseason.”
The game is expected to start at 7:30 p.m. following the junior varsity game.