It wasn’t the game they wanted to be playing in, but the McPherson High School girls basketball team sure looked determined to end the 22nd annual Mid America Classic on a winning note.
The Bullpups ran into a buzzsaw in Olathe South in the semifinals and had less than 24 hours to rebound against a solid Valley Center squad. But for three quarters the Bullpups played like the better team as they captured third place with a 51-34 win Saturday night.
McPherson was led by its dynamic duo of Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks who combined for 40 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
“Defensively I thought we were pretty alert, and we took away the things they like to do,” head coach Chris Strathman said. “When we were set on defense, I thought we were pretty locked in.”
Valley Center jumped out of the gates for a 5-0 lead but the Pups responded in fashion. Claire Yowell nailed a 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter to cap off a 15-4 run. The Bullpups doubled up Valley Center in the second quarter, 14-7, to take a 29-16 lead into halftime.
In Friday’s semifinal loss, it was the third quarter that plagued the Bullpups. Olathe South held the Pups scoreless while scoring 13 points of their own.
The Bullpups owned the third quarter on Saturday, outscoring the Hornets 9-2 to take a 20 point lead into the fourth quarter. Strathman was able to go to his bench in the fourth quarter, as everyone on the roster saw playing time.
Robertson scored 21 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 3 from the beyond the arc. She was also a perfect 9 of 9 from the charity stripe.
Cooks was perhaps the Bullpups most aggressive player, and it showed on the stat sheet. She had 19 points on 6 of 10 shooting, while making 7 of 10 of her free throws.
As a team, the Bullpups seemed determined to to feed Cooks inside instead of settling for 3-pointers.
“We didn’t really put an emphasis on not shooting 3’s and getting the ball inside” Strathman said. “I think the girls just understood that Mandi was getting open. Mandi had it going on tonight. When she caught the ball, she was very aggressive.”
The Bullpups are now 11-3 and will not play again until a Feb. 7 matchup at Great Bend.
Contact Gallagher Martin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel.