BY TAYLOR ELDRIDGE (@teldridge24)
Is there going to be a better atmosphere anywhere tonight than in the Roundhouse? The McPherson Bullpups improved to 10-1 on the season last night and will take on undefeated Shawnee Mission East in the championship of the McPherson Invitational. The Roundhouse is sure to be filled to its capacity tonight and there are going to be a ton of red supporters in the stands. This is what high school basketball is all about. This is the type of atmosphere that you love playing in as a player. But before we can reach the climax, let’s take a look at all four of the games today and break them down. Click the jump to read a preview of each game tonight.
1:30 [7TH PLACE] – #6 Hutchinson (4-7) vs. #8 Maize (2-8)
This is a tough game to play in. You’ve already lost both of your games in the tournament and probably just want to get out of town. But this game also holds a nice piece of momentum for the team that can end its tournament with a win. That’s usually the team that brings the most effort, which I don’t think either of these teams will be short on today. Hutchinson has to avoid feeling sorry for itself, even though it lost back-to-back games in heartbreaking fashion. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but I have no doubt the Salthawks will bring their typical brand of tough, defensive basketball with them today. Maize should counter with the same, and it’s hoping it can finally piece together some offense today after struggling in the previous two games. These two teams have already met this season, with Hutch pulling out a 56-48 win on Dec. 7. A lot of time has elapsed since then and both have improved, but I still tend to give Hutchinson the advantage because of its defense. I say this one is close, probably played in the 40′s, but I think this time Hutch finds a way to win down the stretch.
Prediction: Hutchinson by 4
3:30 [5TH PLACE] – #4 Manhattan (6-4) vs. #7 Free State (3-7)
On paper, Manhattan is the four seed and enters with a much better record. But I think Free State might actually be a more battle-tested team, as it has played a ridiculous schedule to this point. Now that is all well and good to say that you’re better than your record, which Free State most certainly is, but that doesn’t you can rely on that and not come to play like the Firebirds did yesterday. They almost let one get away from them and I suspect coach Chuck Law will have his team fired up to end the tournament with two wins, which would be a very nice consolation prize. Free State of course has Khadre Lane, who Manhattan will struggle to match up with. But if Manhattan’s 3-2 zone can be effective, then it’s going to find itself in a very tight contest down the wire. Manhattan has lost every time an opponent has scored over 50 points on it this season (0-4). I think Free State can break 50, although probably not by much, and it will end its tournament with a win.
Prediction: Free State by 7
5:30 [3RD PLACE] – #3 Heights (6-4) vs. #5 BV West (5-4)This could be the coming out party for Heights, although regardless of win or less, it probably has played its best basketball already this week. The Falcons will come away from this feeling like they can contend with anyone in the City League and that’s going to make them a very dangerous team with their defensive capabilities. But the challenge today is great and BV West is such a lengthy team it’s going to be an awful hard guard for Heights. The Falcons do have some size with Jordan Wilbeck and Cameron Ellis and those two are probably going to need to turn in monster efforts to give them a shot at victory. BV West has no problem playing a halfcourt game and slowing the pace down and playing a game in the 40′s. Honestly, Heights probably doesn’t mind that either. They’ve struggled to score points for most of this season, though coach Joe Auer is hoping the Falcons broke out of their shell after last night’s game against McPherson where they played quality basketball for a good portion of the game. This game will be telling for Heights. If they can come out and build on last night, then they are going to be a very scary team to play in the second half of the season. It’s hard to call this one, but I think BV West’s height advantage will be too much for the Falcons to overcome. I’m telling you though, watch out for Heights in the second half of the season. No one is going to want to play those guys.
Prediction: BV West by 9
7:30 [1ST PLACE] – #1 SM East (10-0) vs. #2 McPherson (10-1)