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Bullpup Girls Fall in Semifinals of Mid America Classic to St. James Academy, 56-48


By Grant Barrett, Ad Astra Radio


MCPHERSON, Kan. – The (10-2) McPherson High Girls Basketball team suffered their first home loss of the season on Friday, when they fell to the (8-4) St. James Academy Thunder 56-48, in the semifinals of the 28th Annual Mid America Classic.

The game had a championship feeling from the beginning, although it was the top-seeded Bullpups, who found themselves having to crawl out of a 9-point hole midway through the first quarter, as St. James opened the game knocking down 4/5 from 3-point land in a fast-paced first quarter.

As St. James began to cool off, the Pups would begin to heat up after back-to-back baskets from Chloe Clevenger and Karter Alvord. As the deficit began to narrow, McPherson Head Coach Chris Strathman reflected by saying, “We’ve got to remember that they’re playing under pressure and those are things that we’ve got to do in the postseason, and these are great games to prep us for that type of stuff.”

Clevenger would later close the quarter tipping a steal to herself for a breakaway layup, and was fouled on the play. She was able to convert the three-point play, and brought the Pups within four, as they trailed 16-12.

After hitting two three-pointers in the first quarter, the Thunder’s Riley Bruggeman opened the second quarter scoring the first five points, extending the St. James lead back to nine. Jayla McLeod and Madi Moors would score out of a Bullpup timeout, before Karter Alvord’s three would put the exclamation point on a 7-0 run. The Pups had the final possession before the half with a chance to tie or take the lead, as fatigue began to set in for both teams, but a late turnover led to two free throws for St. James, as they would go into the half leading 23-19. 

Both teams came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, the Pups would have early baskets coming from Sears and Clevenger, and  McPherson would have their first lead of the game when Clevenger made a great delivery to Jayla McLeod. The teams then alternated points, before the Thunder would extend their lead to 37-31, forcing the Pups to call a timeout. The Bullpups would find a hot hand with Karter Alvord, converting a three-point play, which was unfortunately answered as St. James would have a three-point play of their own, and they were able to take a 43-34 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I waited too long at that stretch right there to call a timeout. That’s one of my regrets. They went on a 9-0 run and I thought about stopping it at five or seven because I just didn’t like the feel, and I didn’t. That’s one of those I’d like to have back as a coach because I let them go on too big of a run,” Strathman said about St. James’ run to end the third quarter.

The Pups continued to get the ball to Alvord early in the fourth, as she scored seven-straight points on her own, highlighted by a three-pointer at the wing. Jordan Sears was able to get the Pups within tying or taking the lead a couple of times in the fourth, getting the game as close as 47-45, but Bruggeman would knock down her fourth three-pointer of the night, and the Thunder would close the game on a 9-3 run, to defeat the Pups 56-48.

“We had some missed opportunities, but I thought we played very hard, and when you can lay it on the line, and do things like that you can leave hopefully with your head held high, so I encouraged the girls not to hang their head,” said Coach Strathman.

When looking at the stat sheet, he was pleased to keep the turnovers under single digits for the second straight game. “St. James is a terrific team, they’re even missing one of their better players, but Bruggeman is outstanding, she’s averaging twenty-one or twenty-two points for a reason, she’s tough to guard,” said Strathman, as he mentioned a handful skills that she brings to the court.

Following the semifinal loss, the Pups move to 10-2 overall. They will play Clearwater in the Consolation Game Saturday, at 5 p.m. The Bullpups opened with Clearwater in the Quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, with that matchup going to McPherson 39-31. Clearwater returns the duo of Elizabeth Tjaden and Carli Carlson, but so far in the tournament, they have not displayed a ton of depth. When asked about preparing for a third game in three days, and who might run out of gas first, Strathman said, “Well, hopefully, they do.”


Notable Stats:

J. Sears 17 pts, 12 reb, 4 stl, 1 blk
K. Alvord 16 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast
C. Clevenger 9 pts, 5 stl, 2 reb, 1 ast
J. McLeod 4 pts, 2 reb
M. Moors 7 reb, 2 pts, 1 ast
A. Dukes 5 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk
Av. Romero 1 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl


Friday’s 28th Annual MAC Results:

3:00 Consolation Semifinal – Dodge City def. Olathe South 49-37,
4: 45 Consolation Semifinal – Manhattan def. Valley Center 56-28
6:30 Semifinal – Wichita Southeast def. Clearwater 43-34
8 :15 Semifinal – St. James Academy def. McPherson 56-48