A lot of coaches would agree the opening round game of a tournament can be the trickiest. But that hasn’t been the case for the McPherson High School Lady Bullpups in the Mid America Classic.
McPherson improved its first round record to 21-1 in the MAC, knocking off Andale 66-18 to move on the semifinals Friday night. They will play No. 2 seed Olathe South at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday night felt a lot like Jan. 13, when the Bullpups defeated Andale 70-27. Head coach Chris Strathman was anticipating a closer game from Andale the second time around. His players, on the other hand, were not.
“I thought our defensive effort was sustained and consistent; I thought we shared the ball well, and our benched played great,” Strathman said. “Our post players inside, specifically from our subs, really did a nice job defensively.”
It took a few minutes for McPherson to get rolling, but once they did, there was no stopping them.
The Bullpups led 16-7 after the first quarter, but started the second quarter on a 16-0 run before Andale scored its first points of the quarter with 3:23 remaining. Overall, the Bullpups outscored Andale 22-2 in the second quarter to take a 29 point lead into halftime.
The second half was an almost direct parallel to the first half — specifically on the defense end. The Bullpups allowed seven points in the first quarter, and then back down to two points in the fourth quarter.
All 12 players on the roster played at least seven minutes for McPherson. On the flip side, nobody needed to play more than 20 minutes.
The Bullpups will be fully rested when they take on the No. 3 team in Class 6A Friday night.
“We wanted to jump on them early and give ourselves the chance to play everyone, and we were able to do that,” Strathman said. “Olathe South is very disciplined. They put themselves in great position to score. When they know they need to get it inside, they get it inside. They also have shooters who are free to launch. We have our work cut out for us, but we wanted to be playing the late game and we wanted to be playing Olathe South.”
Taylor Robertson matched Andale’s 18 points with 18 points of her own. She also had four rebounds and four steals in just 17 minutes of action. Mandi Cooks scored 10 points and also had five steals. The Bullpups came up with 20 steals and forced 27 Andale turnovers in the win.
Claire Yowell had one of her best games of the season with 13 points and a pair of steals. Strathman said the emergence of a third scoring option, whoever it may be, is huge for his team’s success.
McPherson shot the ball extremely well from everywhere on the court — 22 of 43 from the field (51 percent) and 9 of 21 from beyond the arc (43 percent).
The Bullpups will meet up with Olathe South, who was a 63-38 winner over Dodge City. South’s Kaiti Butaud was 8 of 11 from the field for a game high 21 points.
In the other semifinal matchup, Manhattan will take on Valley Center at 6 p.m. No. 1 seed Manhattan was an 83-37 winner over Wichita Southeast, as five Indians scored in double figures. No. 4 Valley Center was a 49-42 winner over Hays after starting the game with a 22-10 lead.