For an opening-night act at the Roundhouse, this one rated a “10” on the bravo meter.
McPherson High’s basketball teams prevailed over highly ranked Derby in games that were nothing short of spectacular.
The girls game was a matchup of No. 1 (Derby in 6A) against No. 2 in 4A D-I (McPherson) and had more twists and turns than a best-selling mystery novel.
In the first half, the Bullpups stayed in the game and eventually went ahead on the strength of their 3-point shooting. The second half went back-and-forth, with the teams taking turns with the lead.
The 3-ball has been a staple of Chris Strathman-coached teams and so far this season the Bullpups have knocked down a whopping 21 in their two games. They were 12 of 27 against the long-armed Derby defense for just under 45 percent, far above the accepted average of about 35 percent.
Taylor Robertson was, well, Taylor Robertson. The Oklahoma commit was frustrated early on as she was 0 of 3 in the first quarter, but she patiently worked off screens to get some open looks after that, finishing the game with 24 points. For one of the rare times she was under 50 percent from the field (8 of 18), but she was the focus of the Derby defense.
The spotlight fell on MHS junior Hannah Hageman, whose play was the difference in the game. Hageman always has been known for her athleticism and defense, but she knocked down 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, none bigger than her 3 that gave the Bullpups a 50-49 lead. She also calmly made a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left, which put Derby behind the 8-ball.
While Hageman’s 16 points were unexpected, so was Maggie Leaf’s nice 12-minute effort off the bench against Derby’s gifted 6-6 center Kennedy Brown. Leaf gave away more than half-a-foot, but she pulled down 6 key rebounds and did her best to move Brown away from the basket.
MHS held Derby to 37 percent from the field and the Panthers also self-destructed from the line, making just 9 of 20. Take away newcomer Aliyah Myers’ 5 of 6 and the Panthers were just 4 of 14.
I believe MHS having played a game was beneficial while it was the Panthers’ opener. Derby at times was out of synch, with Tore’E Alford being held to 3 of 10. She has committed to D-I Missouri State, but showed first-game rust by missing a couple of key layups.
The MHS girls, I believe, needed that win desperately. As good as Derby is, Miege is a big step up in class. The Stags are loaded with height and quickness and how MHS can cope with the uber-quick Gonzalez sisters could be the key to the game.
As for the Bullpup boys, they quickly extended a 6-point lead after a quarter as once MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon went to his trapping defense, it threw Derby off its game.
Make no mistake, when the Panthers return here next month for the McPherson Invitational they will be a different team. There are too many weapons for them not to be successful. Tyler Brown can shoot it as well as anybody I’ve seen and Bryant Mocaby basically played himself out of the game because he was so amped up trying to impress his new team, committing 4 fouls in his first 5 minutes of play. Derby is like an AAU All-Star team that has been assembled together as four transfers are joining the homegrown players and it’s going to take time.
The Bullpups pushed the lead out to 26 in the second half. While the final margin was only 15, that was mostly cosmetic. MHS had this game in the 20s much of the way before it went off the rails in the fourth quarter, about the only thing Kinnamon had to knit-pick about.
Ben Pyle scored 35 points (in three quarters) and vaulted to 13 rebounds, but he also had 5 assists and 3 steals. His game is so much more-rounded this year and he is much more athletic as he showed a lot of explosion.
Another player that caught my eye was Cody Stufflebean, who had 6 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes. Project those numbers over 32 minutes and they would be impressive. Stufflebean, only a sophomore, is going to be so valuable as he’s big, strong and skilled, which will take some of the inside pressure off Pyle.
Kinnamon exercised his entire bench, yet the team committed only 10 turnovers. It shows just how fundamentally sound the Bullpups are.
I like MHS’ chances on Friday against Miege, provided it doesn’t get into foul trouble and again keeps the turnovers at a minimum. It’s about time for the Bullpups to beat Miege again after losing the last three meetings, including two last season.
Both MHS teams wildly entertained Bullpup Nation last night and they showed just the tip of the iceberg as to why this is going to be a special season.