EMPORIA— Just when you thought the McPherson High School girls basketball team had the third place hardwood on the palm of their hands after a strong first half, the Bullpups broke down in the second half and were outplayed by the Schlagle High School of Kansas City, escaping with the Class 5A third place trophy after a 60-54 win over the Bullpups.

In the first half, it started in a shootout battle between Grace Pyle and the Stallions' freshman guard Armanaie Blacksure. Pyle put up 19 points in the first half, while Blacksure had 18. Schlagle had the slight lead, 13-11, to end the first quarter, but the Bullpups ended the second quarter on an 18-2 run, with Pyle nailing a three-pointer before the buzzer to give McPherson a 40-28 lead.

All things fell apart for the Bullpups in the second half. After shooting 60.9 percent from the field going into halftime, it went down drastically to 15.8 percent in the second half. Similar to Friday's loss to St.Thomas Aquinas in the semifinals, the Bullpups' shooting didn't pull through when it needed to. Pyle went scoreless in the second half, and everybody else didn't reach double-figures in time. Lakyn Schiefereke and Emma Ruddle came close with eight points and nine points. McPherson also shot 2-for-11 from behind the arc after making eight out of 11 attempts in the first two quarters.

"When we're not making shots, you got to make sure that you are at least getting them," Bullpups Head Coach Chris Strathman said. "So they were not able to leak out in transition, and also at least we have the chance to get an offensive boards which we usually do."

The Bullpups were able to keep Blacksure out the game by having her settle for five points, which resulted to a 23-point performance by the freshman, However, Camille Evans came up big when she scored 17 points in the final two quarters, just after scoring only two points in the first half. Evans gave the Stallions back the lead and made it a two-possession game, having the Bulllpups down 56-52 with three minutes left.The Stallions outscored the Bullpups, 32-14, forcing 19 turnovers on McPherson. Once the Stallions captured their first lead since the first quarter, their was no turning back.

"They went on a awesome run. That Blacksure girl is just a freshman, and was 7-for-7 at halftime with 18 points," Strathman said. "We went to a 1-3, chased her on defense. She had five in the second half, but then Camille Evans...we talked before the game, whether on man or zone, she's going to find a way to the basket. She was just really crafty and super fast. I was surprised, honestly, that she got to the basket fast as easy as she did."

As it was not the finish the Bullpups were hoping for, it doesn't define the successful season they have with a 21-3 record, and Five seniors (Jaycee Burghart, Hannah Hageman, Riley Hett, Maggie Leaf and Megan Eisenbarth) will be missed as Strathman reflects on the 2018-2019 season.

"We really had a consistent approach throughout our season," Strathman said. "I'm very thankful and blessed to have the chance to coach them. This has been a pretty, unique special group all the way coming out. They have always been a hard-working group, and a very unselfish group, and so smart. They are going to be tough to replaced. We got some good pieces coming back, but it's always tough to see the seniors go."

Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at pholland@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports