Is there a better way to start 2018?
McPherson High vs. Buhler. As cold as it is outside, the basketball action inside the Roundhouse tonight should be white-hot.
The MHS girls, though, shouldn’t have much trouble. The Crusaders have been down, down, down since the graduation of All-Stater Jessica Steffen in 2016 as they are winless this year after winning just three games last year.
It’s the perfect way for the Bullpup girls to knock off the rust, as they know Friday’s game at Circle has major implications. In the final KBCA poll before Christmas, the Bullpups were ranked No. 2 and the T-Birds were slotted at No. 4.
That game should be a good measuring stick for the Bullpups, as it will be their fourth against a ranked team.
The McPherson girls are right on track and there’s encouraging news about injured All-Stater Mandi Cooks, who has been cleared to return to non-contact workouts. The best-case scenario is that Cooks is about a month away from returning, which would give her a handful of games before postseason play.
I keep wondering how the Bullpups would have matched up with Miege with a healthy Cooks. The Stags also were missing a key player as 6-3 center Ashton Verhulst was sidelined for that game.
MHS and Miege still appear to be at the head of the 4A D-I class. The Bullpups face a tough January as in addition to Circle, they have a non-league road game with 5A power Newton, as well as the Mid America Classic, which features 6A titans Manhattan and Olathe South. The hope for the Bullpups is that they grab the No. 1 seed and let the Indians and Falcons battle it out on the other side of the bracket.
As for the MHS boys, there will be no easing into the New Year. While Buhler lost two games in December it probably felt like it let get away, the Crusaders are more than formidable.
They have a solid 6-8 center in Grant Owens, who is a load to handle down low as he’s nimble for 250 pounds. He has good footwork around the basket and the key will be for the Bullpups to get the game in their tempo and tire the big man.
The Crusaders definitely miss graduated sharpshooting guard Tanner Lackey, who could put up points in a hurry. But Dalton Brown and Dylan Brown can fill it up, while Dalton Smyres is a fine athlete.
The Bullpups probably were disappointed for the Christmas break. They were playing at an incredible level, as they swamped a good Andover team in their final game and the Trojans two nights later toppled Andover Central, thought by many observers to be the third-best team in Class 4A Division I.
Given that MHS has not played in two weeks and fans have been inside because of the cold, I would expect a big crowd tonight. There’s a lot of kids home from college, while Buhler always travels well. Anything less than a near-capacity crowd will be considered disappointing.