Ad Astra Radio Family Brands

Bullpups Begin 2023 with Wins over Towanda-Circle


By Grant Barrett, Ad Astra Radio


MCPHERSON, Kan. – It took about a half of basketball for both McPherson Bullpup Basketball teams to settle in following their first game after the holiday break, as they hosted the Towanda-Circle Thunderbirds in the Roundhouse for both teams first matchup of 2023.

Both teams entered undefeated against AVCTL Div. III opponents, and in the first half of the girls contest, Circle would give the Pups everything they could handle, knocking down shots from the outside as confidence began to grow within the Thunderbirds, playing the Bullpups even after a quarter, 10-10.

“I thought in the first half they came out and really challenged us.” said McPherson Head Coach Chris Strathman, “I thought defensively they were pretty sharp and didn’t let us have a whole lot of easy baskets.” He mentioned that his team wasn’t able to speed up Circle the way they wanted to, and only forced the Thunderbirds into seven first-half turnovers.

MHS GBB 1.6.22 vs Circle
Photo By Kendall Shaw

In a half that saw three lead changes, the Pups would lead by just one, before Karter Alvord would knock down a three-pointer, which was a key basket that gave the Pups the momentum and the lead going into the locker room 23-17, as Alvord finished with a game-high 13 points.

It was a tale of two halves Friday, as the Bullpups would outscore the Thunderbirds 14-2 in the third quarter, as they ramped up the defensive intensity to force 15 turnovers outscoring Circle 25-5 in the second half, as Alvord, Jordan Sears, Chloe Clevenger and Madi Moors all finished with four steals each, as the Pups would cruise to a 48-22 win. 

Strathman would credit the second-half turnaround to a better offensive second half, he said, “Finishing plays around the basket, a couple of good kick-out threes, a few times we did make the extra pass.” He said, “But, too many times, in my opinion, we didn’t make the extra pass.” he mentioned that’s what they ended up talking about after the game.

He said, “They’re one of the top two, top three teams in the league for sure, so to beat them by 26, you know, most I think would be pleased with that, I want us to be better honestly, especially in the first half, I thought we’d be a whole lot better, but I think some of that maybe was the first game after a three-week layoff.” 

Coach Strathman mentioned the challenging road ahead of them, and they can improve moving forward, he said, “They were challenged a little bit in the locker room about committing to the little things, doing things right because we have a very high ceiling, and we won’t reach that ceiling unless we hold them to a standard whether they like it or not. He concluded by saying, “They want to be held to that standard, so they want to be coached, they want to be the best they can be, and we have some really tough games coming up, and some of the things we got away with tonight, we won’t be able to get away with much longer.” 

Scoring Total:

K. Alvord 13 points
J. Sears 12 points
C. Clevenger 11 points
J. McLeod 6 points
M. Moors 2 points
Av. Romero 2 points
R. Eilrich 2 points

MHS BBB 1.6.22 vs Circle
Photo By Kendall Shaw

In the boys game, McPherson-native Jordan Crawford, returned to the opposing sideline as the Head Coach of the Circle Boys Basketball team, as he prepared his undefeated, number four-ranked team for his first-ever matchup with former Head Coach Kurt Kinnamon and the top-ranked Bullpup Boys.

Kinnamon mentioned in the week leading up to this matchup that he knew that Crawford’s team was much like him as a player, very fundamentally sound, and the Thunderbirds were able to execute on a handful of sets early, to take a 14-11 first quarter lead. “I had really high hopes coming into tonight because we had practiced so well, we had really had some outstanding practices, put in some new stuff, and it looked awesome, then we put it in the game and it looked terrible.” He said, “Give Jordan and Circle credit.” 

However, in the second quarter, the Pups would have their best quarter, as Owen Pyle had two three-pointers and accounted for 10 of the Bullpups’ 22 points, outscoring the Thunderbirds 22-11, to take a 33-25 halftime lead.

“One of the things we put on the board is that we’ve got to win 50/50 balls, and I thought in no way shape or form were we as tough as they were tonight,” he mentioned the rebounding differential, which did not favor the Pups, along with some first-half turnovers. 

The Bullpups were able to maintain a double-digit lead most of the second half, as Gabe Pyle would scorch the nets in the third quarter, knocking down three triples, as the sophomore led the Pups with 17 points on the night. Kinnamon mentioned him as a “sixth starter” saying, “I thought Gabe was really good off the bench,” he talked about the spark that he’s been off of the bench, as well as some key moments defensively.

The Thunderbirds didn’t go away quietly, as they were led by Trevor Cowman, who finished with a game-high 31 points, going 5 of 9 from deep. After Circle crept within 9, Kyden Thompson would add to his nearly perfect free-throw percentage late, as he finished with 15 points, 5 assists and 5 steals. Kreighton Kanitz also had a solid night following with 13 points and 6 assists.

Kinnamon said following the 68-57, “Truth be told we’re better basketball players, we won the game because we are better basketball players, but from an effort standpoint, I was really impressed with what Circle did.” 

He said, “We were able to execute some things down the stretch, I know it had to drive Jordan crazy to see us score on both of our home run plays, get beat on a back cut, and some of those things that he used to do all the time when he played here, and I’m sure he had them prepared for them, but our guys executed those really well.”

Following the wins, both Bullpup Basketball teams move to 6-1, and they will travel to Augusta on Tuesday, before returning to the Roundhouse next Friday, against Mulvane. Tipoff for Tuesday and Friday is slated for 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Scoring Totals:

G. Pyle 17 points
K. Thompson 15 points
Kr. Kanitz 13 points
O. Pyle 12 points
C. Muehler 6 points
H. Boese 3 points
M. Miller 2 points

Photos By Kendall Shaw