The McPherson High boys now control their own destiny in terms of winning Division III of the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League, which they have done every year since dropping down from Division II in 2012.
The Bullpups and Augusta both have one league loss as we head into the home stretch of the season. Buhler is now a game back and plays at Augusta on Friday. An Oriole win and the Crusaders fall two games back in the loss column.
Meanwhile, the MHS boys head to Winfield on Friday to take on a Viking team that must feel like it gave away a victory to the Bullpups in the first meeting, as MHS trailed nearly the entire game before tying it at the buzzer on a 40-foot running one-hander by Jayton Alexander. The Bullpups rode that momentum to the overtime victory. McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon said he’s going to make sure his team has laser focus going into Friday as he doesn’t want a repeat of that near-disaster in the first meeting.
The Bullpups then play three home games next week against non-league Andale, Augusta and Circle. The Bullpups’ lone league loss has been to Augusta, a game the Bullpups held a substantial lead in the fourth quarter, only to let it slip away. If the Bullpups win out, they will again be league champs, which is still a goal of any team even if the ultimate prize is a trip to state.
The Bullpups essentially saved their season on Tuesday with their heart-stopping 51-50 victory over arch-rival Buhler as they continued their domination of the series. The Crusaders had come into the game playing as well as any team in Class 4A, but found themselves down as many as 15 points in the first half as MHS – after a stretch of indifferent performances – played like the team Kinnamon believes it can be.
To the Crusaders’ credit, and mainly on the back of Max Alexander, they came roaring back as every time the Bullpups were on the verge of salting it away, he would make a key basket or 3-pointer. He wound up making 14 of the Crusaders’ 16 field goals in the game and finished with 37 points, as he nearly dispelled the common belief that one player can’t beat five. Buhler had only four players score in the game and two of them scored only 2 points.
The Bullpups nearly undid all their good work late in the game as turnovers and missed free throws allowed Buhler to have a chance to win it at the end, but a pair of missed free throws with 1 second left allowed the Bullpups to escape.
I’m not sure emotionally this team would have been able to come back had it lost. While MHS is 8-8 on the year, at least half of the defeats have been where it has had the lead at least midway through the fourth quarter and just couldn’t seal the deal. Maybe this will give the team confidence moving forward as it was a good win against a good opponent.
Chances are probably better than 50-50 the Bullpups and Crusaders are going to meet one more time, this one in Buhler. They are 1-2 in the sub-state seedings, with the team with the better record the host and that will be the Crusaders barring an unforeseen collapse.