Sports Editor Peter Holland Jr.
After a well-rested Christmas break, the McPherson High School basketball teams return to the court, but this time the Bullpups will play two games in two days. This Friday the Bullpups will host Dodge City High School and then will travel to Kansas City, Kansas the next day to face Piper High School for the 810 Varsity Showcase.
The Lady Pups are off to a 5-0 start, beating top tier teams in Andover Central and Derby in a hostile environment, and then eased their way to three more wins over Andover, Buhler and Winfield. For a team that was down three of their senior starters, Head Coach Chris Strathman likes what he saw in the last five games.
“I’m very pleased about where we’re at,” Strathman said. “We had some great competition to start the season off, and we had a couple of easy ones. With Andover Central and Derby, to win both that week and go 5-0 is a big accomplishment, especially considering the adversity injuries that we have.”
Dodge City is 4-1 this season and their only loss was to Liberal High School, 51-41 on Dec. 19. Leading the Lady Demons is Kisa Unruh, who averages 18.2 points this season. Unruh scored 26 points over McPherson the last time the two meet. That was before she dropped 32 points against Junction City in Dodge City’s season opener.
“We definitely want to slow her down, but she is not their only offensive weapon,” Strathman said. “They are a very athletic bunch overall and can really attack the paint and are very good in transition.”
Piper, however, is a different story. The Pirates are 6-0 this season and are No. 2 in the Class 4A standings behind McPherson’s Class 4A rival, Bishop Miege High School. Despite the loss of their top scorer Ali Vigil, the Pirates still averages 51.5 points a game led by Evelyn Vasquez, Riley Porter Ayreona Carter and Grace Barnes. Barnes signed to play softball at the University of Iowa.
“Piper has some very good and athletic players, and are undefeated while playing their first six games without their best overall player in Ali Vigil,” Strathman said. “Vigil may play this weekend but we are not sure as of now, she has signed with Central Missouri State and is recovering from her own ACL injury from last spring. We will have to get good shots and really take care of the ball, as they really thrive in transition off turnovers and missed shots.”
For the McPherson boys, ever since their loss to Andover on opening night, the Bullpups hanged tough in the last five games in the result of a 3-2 record. Some of the highlights include the Bullpups stunning Andover Central, and winning two straight over Winfield and Buhler High School.
“I am pleased that we have continued to improve, and I feel like we are a better team now than we were the first game of the year,” Head Coach Kurt Kinnamon said.
McPherson will have a tune-up game with a winless Dodge City before traveling to Kansas City. However, the Bullpups will not drop their guard.
“Dodge City plays an exciting brand of basketball that is very fast-paced,” Kinnamon said. “If we play to our strengths, it should be a good game for us. Dodge City has played only one game with its best player so their record can be thrown out the window. That player will play tomorrow night.”
The boys will have their handful against Piper’s star player, Tamar Bates. Bates, only a junior, has received eight division-one offers. His most notable offers are Northwestern University, University of Missouri and Kansas State University.
“Great size and shooting ability are Piper’s strengths,” Kinnamon said about the Pirates. “We will have to make the most of every possession and get stops on some very talented offensive players.”
The Pirates, the reigning Class 4A state champs, are ahead of Bishop Miege and Parsons High School in the Class 4A Standings. Just like the Bullpups, Piper will also play back-to-back games as they face St. Thomas Aquinas High School the night before.