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McPherson Sweeps Buhler in AVCTL Div. III Opener Tuesday


By Grant Barrett, Ad Astra Radio


MCPHERSON, Kan. – On Tuesday, the McPherson High Basketball teams began AVCTL Div. III action, after testing themselves against some of the top teams in Class 5 and 6A to begin their first three games of the season.

After defeating Andover on Friday, both Bullpup teams entered 2-1. The MHS Girls claim the fourth spot in this week’s KBCA Poll, while the boys begin this week as the top team in Class 4A.

For Buhler, both teams were looking to overcome Friday’s loss to another rival, the Hutchinson Salthawks.

The Bullpup Girls were quickly able to get all five starters in the scoring column to jump out to a 9-2 lead. Forcing eight turnovers in the opening quarter, but following a timeout, the Crusaders were able to hang around after knocking down a couple of shots, as the Pups would end the quarter leading 17-10.

McPherson’s second quarter would be their best scoring quarter, as they opened on a 14-0 run, led by Jordan Sears, who had 10 points in the quarter, and finished with 29 points in the game to go along with 7 rebounds, and 5 steals.

Following the game, Head Coach Chris Strathman had talked about potentially seeing a couple of different looks from the Buhler defense, but as they remained in man-to-man, the Pups were able to take advantage.  “We kind of knew that they would have a hard time matching up with Jordan Sears in particular, and we thought the zone might be used to slow her down, obviously they didn’t use that,” said Strathman.

Chloe Clevenger also recorded back-to-back games where she’s scored in double figures, as she followed behind Sears with 17 points and 4 assists. 

At the half, the game was in the hands of the Bullpups leading 46-19, after forcing 14 turnovers, the Pups only had one of their own, as Strathman was able to get everybody playing time, including Ava Romero, who had 7 points in the second quarter, and finished with 8. 

MHS GBB 12.13.22
Photo By Kendall Shaw

“I saw a really good pace out of our kids tonight, I was a little bit surprised honestly that Buhler played man pretty much the entire game, and it allowed us to get out and run with that kind of flow,” said Strathman, he added. “We were able to get some easy baskets early out of the press, a couple of open threes early, and were just able to play off the lead with that.” he said, “I thought our girls shared the basketball pretty well. We talked at halftime about doing a better job of pitching it ahead in transition, instead of trying to push it off the bounce all the time, so we did a little better job with that a couple of times in the second half as well.”

The Pups would outscore Buhler 25-5 in the third quarter, and the game would be running clock the rest of the way, as the Pups would go on to win 81-28.

Strathman concluded by talking about the different ways that they guarded Buhler, in preparation for St. James Academy on Saturday. “Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will prep primarily for Winfield, which we expect almost all zone, that’s pretty much what they do, and they have a really good post player, who was our league’s Division III Player of the Year last year as a sophomore, so we’ll have to prep for guarding her.” He said, “St. James is a different animal, they’ve got great shooters, they’ve got length, they’ve got size, they’re more talented and deep than Andover was easy, in my opinion, even though they weren’t ranked as highly as Andover, I do think St. James is a much better team overall than Andover was, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us Friday on the road, with a league game on the road, and then turn around and head to Kansas City.”

McPherson Boys 60, Buhler 36

In the Boys’ game, it was a slow start for both teams, as McPherson held a 7-0 lead over halfway through the opening quarter, and although Buhler had opportunities from the field, and at the free throw line, their first and only point of the quarter came from a free throw, as the Bullpups played tenacious defense, forcing seven turnovers in the quarter to take a 14-1 lead.

Head Coach Kurt Kinnamon said, “The number one key that I put on the board is that ‘you’ve got to play the right way, I had a feeling that the game would maybe get a little easier, and I thought the guys did a good job of not hunting their own shots. He said, “Outside of Kyden, Mason, and Henry shooting it pretty well, we’re better shooters than 3/17 from three. I know we’re better shooters from that.” 

The Crusaders would play the Pups fairly even in the second quarter, but McPherson’s early run is what propelled them to a 27-11 halftime lead. “I didn’t think against Buhler, that maybe we would have a letdown after Friday night, but I’m not sure how locked in we were.” said Kinnamon adding, “We turned them over 14 times in the first half, and then we turned them over only once in the second half, and part of that is that we quit pressuring full court, but we got to play several guys, which is good.” 

The Bullpups would come out of the locker room playing their best quarter of the night in the third, as they would take a 25-point lead into the fourth quarter. “It wasn’t a very pretty game,” said Kinnamon, after looking at the offensive stats for both teams, but he credited his defense for how well they played, holding the Crusaders under 25 percent from the field, on the way to a 60-36 win.

The Bullpups will now have two practices to prepare for back-to-back games, taking on Winfield on Friday, and Shawnee Mission Northwest on Saturday.

“We take them one game at a time, but we have both scouting reports done,” said Kinnamon. “Obviously two completely different types of teams, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that we’ve played well in Winfield in my 28 years, so it’d be nice to go down there and have a game where everybody plays well, and a feel-good game.” He mentioned that it could make for a couple of long trips if they don’t play well, concluding by discussing Shawnee Mission North West’s height, adding, “They’ve got a kid who’s over a 2000-yard rusher, who’s their point guard, so my guess is that if you’re a 2000-yard rusher, you’re not slow, so we’ll have to deal with that. It’ll be two different preparations, and we’ll kind of mix in things that we feel that we need to work on for both.”

Following the win, McPherson moves to 3-1 overall, and on Friday, they will travel to Winfield to take on the Vikings. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 

Saturday the Bullpups will travel to the 810 Varsity Showcase, hosted by Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Girls will tip off at 4:00 p.m. The Boys will tip at 7 p.m. 

Buhler will look to snap their 3-game skid, as they travel to Augusta on Friday, in their final game before the holiday break.