It wasn’t the domination McPherson showed in the first game against Circle, but the Bullpups did enough in the first half to withstand a furious Thunderbird rally Tuesday night for a 56-48 victory.
The triumph clinched the AVCTL Division III title for the Bullpups (16-3, 9-0), but Circle (17-2, 8-2) made McPherson earn it.
The Bullpups, who raced to a 20-3 lead after one quarter in the Jan. 6 contest, took advantage of Circle’s cold shooting in the first half and led comfortably, 34-20, at the break. Junior Taylor Robertson scored 19 of her game-high 32 points in the first half.
McPherson coach Chris Strathman said Robertson has many important roles, primarily shooting.
“She also just allows the other kids to relax against pressure a little bit,” he said. “We expect a lot out of Taylor.
“We ask her to do a lot, and she always comes through. She definitely did (Tuesday night).”
McPherson always seems to have girls who can fire from deep, but Robertson is special, Strathman said.
“We’ve never had anyone who could shoot it like Taylor,” he said.
Circle coach Brian Henry lamented the first-half missed shots.
“We kind of dug ourselves in too deep of a hole again,” he said. “We didn’t get quite as deep this time. But they’re such a quality team that they can put 10-, 15-point runs on you in a heartbeat, and it’s tough to get past those.
“We gave everything we had in the second half. I think we made some adaptations and got a few more stops. We just missed too many shots (late).”
But just as Circle made a comeback in the first game (which McPherson won, 58-45), senior Kali Martin led a Thunderbird charge with 15 second-half points, finishing with a team-high 22.
When McPherson was making its first-half run, Henry said he was having flashbacks to the earlier game.
“We talked about that in one of our first two timeouts,” he said. “(We were) just going play-by-play of the first game, the first six or seven possessions. Unfortunately, it did mirror it to start with, and give McPherson a lot of credit for that.
“Fortunately, though, we made it a little bit closer of a game and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
McPherson led by as many as 16 points in the first half, paced by Robertson and fellow junior Mandi Cooks, who had 10 first-half points and finished with 11.
Robertson hit five first-half three-pointers and had six in the game.
But in the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds began to chip away. An 8-2 run to begin the quarter closed the gap to four points on a number of occasions, the last time at 52-48 with 37.7 seconds left.
By then, however, Circle had to foul, and the Bullpups converted seven of 10 in the final 1:11 to seal the victory.
Sophomore Carissa Beck scored 13 for Circle, including the Thunderbirds’ lone two three-pointers.
McPHERSON – Robertson 32, M. Cooks 11, Hett 5, Schieferecke 4, E. Yowell 2, Bruner 2.
CIRCLE – Martin 22, Beck 13, Kelly 5, Perry 3, Galloway 3, Keller 2.