Sports Editor Peter Holland Jr.
The 25th annual Mid-America Classic will be underway on Thursday, starting at 3 p.m. The McPherson High School girls basketball team holds the No. 1 seed in the bracket and will take on Ulysses High School at 7:30 p.m.
Just days before the tournament, the Bullpups are ranked in No. 1 in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Poll for the first time this season, surpassing St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Head Coach Chris Starthmn is looking forward to the MAC Classic as he coached all 25 years for McPherson,
“We are very excited about our tournament, as it is always an event that our coaching staff and players really look forward to each year,” Strathman said. “This tournament has seen some of the very best teams and players that Kansas has produced.”
This will be Ulysses’ third season competing in the tournament. The last time the two teams met was two seasons ago in sub-state when McPherson was still Class 4A. The Tigers have not been the same since as they enter the tournament 1-9.
“Ulysses has struggled this year, but they will come out and compete very hard on Thursday,” Strathman said. “They were hit very hard by graduation so they are in a rebuild mode. Their coach does a great job with them though and will have them as prepared as possible.”
The odds are in McPherson’s favor but for Ulysses Head Coach Tim Hofferber, he’s looking forward to seeing how his Tigers handle some high-level competition in the tournament.
“Coaching in the Roundhouse at the MAC Tournament is exciting because of the tournaments rich-history in that gym and the level of competition,” Hofferber said. “McPherson is always a tough out in the MAC. It’s their tournament and their crowd and Coach Strathman always has them ready to play hard.”
The Bullpups might be the top seed and heavy favorite to win it all for the third consecutive year. However, McPherson is not the only team undefeated in the tournament. Shawnee Mission Northwest High School enters the tournament 11-0 this season and is ranked No. 3 in the KBCA poll.
This will be the Cougars’ third year at the classic and are coached by former McPherson College grad (’04-’08), Tyler Stewart. Similar to McPherson, SM Northwest has seven girls in the rotation and each of them is capable of being the top scorer.
“SM Northwest may have their most talented roster that I have seen out of their program, and most of them are sophomores and juniors, so they are going to be excellent again next year,” Strathman said.
Olathe South is no stranger to the MAC tournament as they won five championships and was runner-up last year. The Falcons are led by Dani Winslow, a 6-foot-1 guard who is committed to Missouri State University. Its record may say 5-4, but four of its losses were in tight ballgames against teams in the Kansas City area. Other seniors that can put up points for the Falcons are Avery Halliday and Mandy Truitt.
“We have played great competition and lost to quality opponents,” South’s Head Coach Michael Allen said. “It’s taken a team effort so far, and it will take that for us to continue improving.”
No. 3 Olathe South vs. No. 6 Manhattan at 3 p.m.
No. 2 Shawnee Mission NW vs. No. 7. Shawnee Mission South at 4:30 p.m.
No. 4 Wichita Northwest vs. No. 5 Wellington at 6 p.m.
No. 1 McPherson vs. No. 8 Ulysses 7:30 p.m.