The business was handled one last time in the Roundhouse on Saturday evening, as the McPherson High School girls basketball team is state bound for the fifth consecutive season after defeating Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School 62-45 in the Class 5A sub-state finals.
The Bullpups didn't waste any time finding their 3-point sniper, Kassidy Beam, as she knocked one from the left corner 11 seconds after tipoff. It was not a great shooting performance for the Lady Pups as they shot 5 for 20 from behind the arc and 21 for 50 overall, but because the Bullpups remained deadly on defense, McPherson had an opportunity to put up easy buckets in transition.
"We were very aggressive. We took some quick 3s, but that's kind of our M.O. We do that a lot so nothing was out of the ordinary, " McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. "But overall as a team, we didn't shoot very well from the perimeter."
Kapaun clearly had the size advantage against McPherson, led by its 6-foot-4 junior Ella Anciaux, who led the Crusaders with a double-double performance with 19 points and 11 boards despite getting into foul trouble early. Strathman's biggest takeaway was the offensive rebound category at 16-8 differential and 33-23 overall.
"That's a huge number for us against a team that obviously has the size advantage on us," Strathman said. "I'm very proud of our effort of getting the offensive boards."
McPherson kept battling defensively, forcing turnovers and creating transitions. The Bullpups had a total of 19 steals, four blocked shots and forced the Crusaders into 19 turnovers. Strathman also credited Beam and Lauren Labertew holding Sophia Gimino, Kapaun's top scorer, with six points.
"Kassidy Beam did a tremendous job on her," Strathman said. "Lauren Labertew when she came in, her job was to guard No. 5, she did a good job. So there leading scorer from Wednesday really struggled tonight. I thought that was a big key."
McPherson captured its largest lead of the night at 23-12 with five minutes left in the second quarter, until the Lady Crusaders went on a 7-0 run to only be down 25-19. Beam and Pyle answered with back-to-back 3-pointers and picked up a 33-20 lead at halftime.
The Crusaders crawled right back with a 5-0 run, while McPherson was cold for a brief time as it didn’t make a bucket in the first three minutes of play. The Pups went on a 7-0 run to give McPherson another big lead by the end of the third at 45-27.
The odds were against the Crusaders, but they wouldn't back down yet as they picked 18 points in the fourth quarter. But they remained behind by 15, 55-40. McPherson used the clock to its advantage with three minutes left and eventually closed out the game by making its free throws. McPherson was 15 for 20 at the line.
"When you have the lead, you have to handle the basketball," Strathman said. "You gotta get the ball in the hands of your best free-throw shooters, which we really tried to do and I thought those girls delivered just like we need them to."
Pyle led the Bullpups with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Beam, who shot 40% from the 3, was the second leading scorer with 14 points. Lakyn Schieferecke had season-high of 11 points. Cassie Cooks was one-point short of reaching double-figures but she was 4 for 4 from the field.
The Bullpups will hold the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A State Tournament, which will begin this coming Thursday. The Bullpups face Basehor-Linwood (16-6) in the first round at 3 p.m. Thurday in Emporia.