Basketball teams returned from holiday break and have started the 2020 portion of its schedule at different times. Several teams, notably the McPherson girls, were in action last Friday and Saturday. The majority of squads played Tuesday – and virtually everyone is in action this Friday. Here are five games to watch as the January schedule starts up.
1.McPherson girls face another ranked team, travels to Circle on Friday in battle of perfect teams – Perhaps no Kansas squad has a better resume than the McPherson girls, which continue to rank No. 2 in Class 5A. The Bullpups have played all or the majority of their season without three key players, all whom have signed with a Kansas Division II school: Andrea Sweat, Emma Ruddle, and Lakyn Schieferecke. Sweat is out for the season with a knee injury, and Schieferecke has returned in a limited role. Still, the Bullpups are 7-0 and are ahead of the pack in Class 5A West, which has five one-loss teams. McPherson has an average score of 55-34, which ranks second in 5A West offense, and tied for third in defense.
Last week, McPherson defeated Dodge City at home, 51-30, on Friday, and Piper, 44-39, on the road Saturday. Dodge City is ranked No. 9 in Class 6A, and Piper is No. 2 in Class 4A. As well, McPherson owns wins against Andover Central (54-50 in overtime) and Derby (49-40).
AC is No. 7 in 5A, and Derby is No. 6 in 6A. On Friday, McPherson travels to Circle, ranked No. 4 in 4A. Circle is also 7-0 and is the only undefeated team in 4A. Circle leads 4A in scoring defense at just 29 points allowed per contest. McPherson is 8-0 against Circle since 2013. McPherson features Grace Pyle and Cassie Cooks, who has returned from a torn ACL. Circle counters with junior Kimalee Cook at 17 points and 4.3 steals per contest, and senior Mallory Cowman delivers 13 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.
2. TMP faces Sacred Heart boys – On Friday, TMP plays host to Sacred Heart (7-1) at Al Billinger Fieldhouse in a key non-conference contest. SH has steadily moved up in the 2A rankings from tenth in the first two polls, to ninth in back-to-back weeks to sixth. Sacred Heart has defeated Little River (62-59 in overtime) and Southeast of Saline (59-53) in the last two games. Sacred Heart also defeated Minneapolis, 77-72, on Dec. 20. Minneapolis is ranked ninth in 3A. SH only lost its season opener, 53-48, to Hesston, which is ranked second in 3A.
TMP has won six in a row after a season-opening 72-61 loss to Olathe West. On Tuesday, TMP defeated Ellis, 55-51, at home. The Monarchs average 65 points a game. Senior Tate Herrenbruck averages more than 20 points a contest for the Knights, and Monarchs’ Jackson Schulte is right at 20 points a game. The Knights are 2-1 against TMP in the last three years.
3. Belle Plaine vs. Garden Plain – A key Central Plains League contest, especially on the boys’ side. BP was ranked as high as third before it fell out of the poll after an upset loss to Sterling in late December. Garden Plain is ranked fourth in 2A. On the girls’ side, GP, back-to-back state champions, is ranked second in 2A and remains perfect. Both teams are also in Sedan sub-state. Belle Plaine boys are 6-1, and Garden Plain is 5-1. Belle Plaine has Eli Wiseman, Austin Hilton and Tim Bible. BP has won four in a row in the series. GP boys have five seniors, including Trey Smith and Matt Pauly. GP girls lost its top-three scorers, though junior Madysen Zoglman and senior Kennedy Horacek have averaged 12.6 and 11.8 points per game, respectively.
4. St. John at Ness City; key matchup in the post – A key litmus test for both teams in the Central Prairie League. SJ is the defending 1A runner-up, and Ness City is the defending 2A champions, though has dropped to 1A this season. SJ has been ranked No. 1 in 1A part of the year and is currently sixth. NC has been as high as eighth in the rankings. Both teams are 6-2. Ness City has lost to Hodgeman County and Ellinwood, and St. John has fallen to Larned and Hesston, both undefeated squads. Senior post Tanner Halling averages 16.9 points and eight rebounds with 4.9 blocks. NC forward Taylor Cable has 16.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a contest. St. John is 12-2 in the last 14 meetings in the series and has won three in a row.
5. Republic County girls look to stay perfect against Kansas teams, Aurand averaging double-double – RC girls opened with two losses to Nebraska schools. Since then, RC is 4-0 and have won three straight contests by single figures: Beloit (38-32), Russell (43-35) and Minneapolis (49-41). On Friday, the Buffs play host to Ellsworth. The girls stand at 2-4. RC boys are 4-2 with losses only to ranked teams Beloit and Minneapolis. Sophomore Blake Aurand averages 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds on a team with four seniors.