The McPherson High School boys and girls basketball teams open the season on Friday at the Roundhouse to start the 2019-2020 season.
The Bullpups host Andover beginning with the girls at 6 p.m. and the boys following at approximately 7:30. Both McPherson teams open the season ranked in the top 10 of the preseason Kansas Basketball Coaches Association 5A polls, with the girls ranked second behind defending state champions St. Thomas Aquinas, and the boys at No. 7.
For the Bullpup boys, Friday’s season opener is a matchup of ranked teams as Andover carries a No. 10 ranking into the season. Although the Bullpups are the higher ranked team, returning experience favors Andover.
The Trojans return three All-AVCTL Division II standouts in senior Harper Jonas, junior Jack Johnson, and junior Isaih Maikori. Jonas, a 6-4 forward, averaged 11.4 points a game last season. Johnson averaged a team-high 15.1 points a game from his guard position, while Maikori pitched in eight a game.
Andover returns seven of its top eight players from last season. The Trojans were a 66-64 winner over McPherson in last year’s season opener.
“A big key to stopping Andover is to make sure we get to their perimeter shooters and allow them only one shot,” boys head coach Kurt Kinnamon said.
McPherson returns just one starter in senior Cody Stufflebean, but the Kansas State football commit is a capable leader. Seniors Cooper Courtney (6-3), Sam Pyle (6-5), and Hayes Schmid (6-0) will also be counted on for leadership.
The Bullpups will be inexperienced entering the season, but Kinnamon is pleased with the progress he’s seen from his team in practice.
“We have practiced very well, and I am excited to see the new players have an opportunity to show what they are capable of,” Kinnamon said. “I am confident that they will do well.”
The McPherson girls enter the season with high expectations as the No. 2 team in 5A. The Bullpups return four seniors in Cassie Cooks, Lakyn Shieferecke, Andrea Sweat, and Emma Ruddle, along with All-AVCTL DIII First Team junior Grace Pyle. Shieferecke will be out for the early part of the season while she recovers from an ACL injury, but the Bullpups have the talent to weather the storm until their most experienced player returns.
As for Andover, the Trojans return three starters and welcome in a first-year head coach. Andover graduated its best player in Shanti Henry, who scored 18 points in last year’s 55-44 McPherson win, but head coach Chris Strathman notes the Trojans return a nice nucleus this season.
“One big key to our success on Friday is adjusting to the things they throw at us, as we know very little about what to expect as far as style of play from Andover, while they will have a very good idea of what we typically do,” Strathman said.
Both Strathman and Kinnamon agree opening the season in the Roundhouse is a special feeling.
“Every year for the last 25 years I have awakened at 4 a.m. with my toes tapping with excitement,” Kinnamon said. “It is no different this year as the Roundhouse is the most special High School Gym in the state.”
Friday is also Wall of Fame night for 10 McPherson High alumni.
“Season openers are always special, but getting to open at home adds a little extra to the experience,” Strathman said. “I expect there to be a great crowd with it also being Wall of Fame Night, so we are really looking forward to competing in the Roundhouse.”