By Sports Editor Peter Hollland Jr.
DERBY—It seems when another goes down, the McPherson High School girls basketball team becomes stronger it continues to show its depth even at its vulnerable state. On Friday the Bullpups overcame another obstacle, being down three senior starters and found a way to pick a 49-40 win over Derby High School.
At the last minute, McPherson suffered another huge blow as Andrea Sweat reportedly suffered a torn ACL and MCL injury, losing their third senior starter as the Bullpups are already without Lakyn Schieferecke and Emma Ruddle. Because of the loss of the Sweat, the Bullpups were at disadvantage and Head Chris Strathman once again has to pull something out of his hat against a young Derby team that was a Class 6A runner-up last season.
“It was a tough day for us. I was mentally drained coming down on the bus. It was tough for Andrea to take the news that she got, and her friends and teammates too,” Strathman said. “It’s just hard to hear that stuff.
Despite the loss, the show went on the Bullpups showed no fear in the Panther as they remain aggressive on the defensive end, making it a low-scoring game. Lauren Labertew started in place of Sweat. Peyton Howard and Ella Schmid also sought plenty of minutes coming off the bench.
As McPherson led 11-7 to end the first quarter, they went scoreless for the three minutes in the second, while Derby went on a 4-0 run to tie the game. Schmid broke the tie with a corner-three halfway through the second. Eventually, the size advantage caught up to the Bullpups as Derby focused on attacking the ball. The Panthers went on a 5-0 run orchestrated by their leading scorer Sydney Niles, who made a buzzer-beater to end the first half with 21-16 lead.
Derby had its largest lead of the night at 27-20 after making back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third. McPherson matched that with an 11-0 run, which tied the game for the third time at 27 apiece. Similar to Tuesday’s win over Andover Central, Kassidy Beam struggled in the first half by going scoreless but finally found her rhythm in the second half, by scoring all nine of the 11 points that gave the Bull[pups the lead with less than two minutes left.
Schmid, who finished with nine points, set the fourth quarter off with a three-pointer but Derby answered with a three-point of their own. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they went over the foul limit and Bullpups were rewarded by making their free throws. Emma Malm took the most free-throws, which led to her eight-point performance. Strathman was pleased by Malm’s aggressiveness on the floor.
“I thought Emma Malm had a fantastic night,” Strathman said. She’s just tough and there are a couple of times she handled the ball coming to the floor, so we try to get in her way. She was just going to jack him. She was tough and I’m so proud of her the way she competed.”
Grace Pyle was McPherson’s top scorer with 12 points. She also contributed with four block shots. Beam was second with 10 points and Schmid had nine. Also in the scoring table was Cassie Cooks, who finished seven points while managing the frontcourt against Derby’s tallest players. Derby has not lost a home game since 2016.
“I’m so proud of our girls for overcoming adversity,” Strathman said after the game. “It’s not mental stuff, you have to fight through with those things when you hit those bad losses. Our girls just found their way to win.”
The Bullpups improved to 3-0 on the season. After two tough road games, they will return to the Roundhouse to host their league rivals, Buhler High School on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.