By JIM MISUNAS
The Great Bend girls hope an overtime victory will spark some early-game momentum heading to Tuesday’s challenging non-league game against No. 7 ranked Class 4A McPherson (10-4).
The Bullpups were a Class 4A state qualifier last year. McPherson’s girls won back-to-back Class 4A state titles in 2011 and 2012.
Great Bend’s girls (7-7) kept their Western Athletic Conference title hopes alive with a 52-47 overtime decision over Liberal Friday. Panthers Lauren Welsch and Carley Brack hit back-to-back 3-pointers to force overtime at 38. The Panthers outscored Liberal 14-9 in overtime. Welsch has averaged 20 points per game in the past four outings.
The Panther girls have staged fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Hays High and Liberal at home.
“Our home crowd definitely is something that’s picked us up,” said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. “Our fourth quarters are encouraging and reaffirm that we have the ability to play at a high level. We figure every game is ours to win if we shoot it well and take care of the basketball.”
Too many turnovers and a lack of shooting efficiency have created up-and-down play.
“It’s important for us to play a fast pace. But we’ve got to value possessions and take good shots,” Minton said. “The most frustrating part has been our shooting percentage and we’ve forced shots at times. We’re optimistic we’ll play our best because McPherson will be a good test.”
McPherson freshman Taylor Robertson scored 23 points and Mandi Cooks scored 15 points in the Bullpups’ 58-50 victory over Dodge City.
McPherson’s boys are a prohibitive favorite over the Great Bend boys. The No. 1 ranked Class 4A Bullpups (14-0) captured the school’s 12th boys basketball championship last spring.
Drew Pyle (18 ppg), Kyler Kinnamon (14 ppg) and Payton Stephens (16 ppg) lead the Bullpup offense. Kinnamon averages seven assists per game in a disciplined, fundamentally sound offense.
In Central Kansas League games, it’s Larned at Pratt and Hillsboro at Hoisington. The Larned boys (10-5) at Pratt (9-6) is a key game for seeding purposes for the March 5-7 Class 4A substate at Larned.
No. 1 ranked Class 4A-Div. 2 Holcomb (15-0) has the top seed clinched and No. 5 ranked Hugoton (10-5) will vie with Larned and Pratt for the second-best record.
Larned’s girls (2-13) will face a substate with No. 3 Class 4A Hugoton and No. 4 Pratt (10-4).
In Central Prairie League games, it’s Ellinwood at Ness City, St. John at LaCrosse, Plainville at Central Plains, Macksville at Kinsley and Healy at Otis-Bison.
The No. 1 ranked St. John boys kept unbeaten with a 52-33 victory over No. 3 ranked Central Plains. St. John’s Dean Wade scored 16 points and Jacob Milton scored 12 points off 6-of-6 shooting. The Oilers shot 30 percent on 2-point attempts.