The top four seeds in the 22nd annual Mid America Classic have a combined record of 28-6. Two of the top three teams in Class 6A occupy the No. 1 and 2 seeds, pushing third-ranked McPherson High School (Class 4A Division I) to the No. 3 seed.
With a potential semifinal matchup against third-ranked Olathe South and a potential championship game against undefeated Manhattan in the championship, it could be easy to overlook the fact the Bullpups have a first round game against Andale to take care of first and foremost.
Fortunately, the Bullpups know how to handle this opponent.
The Bullpups will square off with Andale at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night in a rematch of a game played back on Jan. 13. McPherson jumped out to a 19-4 lead after the first quarter and led 38-14 at halftime before settling for a 41 point win. Andale appears to be outmatched the second time around as well, but McPherson head coach Chris Strathman is not taking any game for granted.
“We expect a much tougher game from Andale this time, so we will have to be ready on Thursday,” Strathman said. “The Mid America Classic is the premiere girls tournament in the state. This tournament does give us a good look at some excellent competition, but we will have to win the first round to get those opportunities.”
The Bullpups have not played since a heartbreaking Jan. 17 loss to top-ranked Newton (5A). Strathman said his team has been preparing for a number of different looks from all the possible teams they could face.
Olathe South (6-1) is on the same side as the Bullpups. Their only loss came at the hands of a Class 7A team from Arkansas. Olathe South plays Dodge City (3-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The other side of the bracket seems pretty straight forward. No team has even come within single digits of Manhattan this season, and it’s unlikely 2-8 Wichita Southeast will be the first one to do so. Manhattan is led by Christianna Carr, a 6 foot guard who is also four-star prospect according to ESPN. Outside of McPherson’s Taylor Robertson, Carr is the premiere player in the tournament.
The other semifinal game pits Valley Center (6-3) and Hays (5-3) against each other.
With all the talented teams in this year’s Classic, whoever walks away from this tournament 3-0 will be well deserved champions.
“There aren’t very many 4A teams that get to play a schedule as difficult as we are this year, so that should only help us for postseason,” Strathman said. “Of course we really want to be hoisting a tourney championship trophy on Saturday night, but I know we will grow as a team this week regardless. I am really trying to remind myself at all times that everything is about the process, and playing great teams is a part of that process to make us better come March.”
Action gets underway at the McPherson Roundhouse at 3 p.m. starting with Valley Center and Hays.