ANDOVER — Andover Central did its best to contain the McPherson scoring duo of Jack Pyle and Christian Ulsaker. With an unforgiving zone defense, the Jaguars forced McPherson to take contested jump shots, and when McPherson did get it inside early, the big body of Boston Stiverson made drivers think twice about putting the shot up in the first half.
But according to Ulsaker, McPherson's offense can only be contained for so long before the helter-skelter style begins to wear down on an opponent, and that was the case in McPherson's 69-59 win over Andover Central on Tuesday night.
The Jaguars weren't as fast in rotating in the second half and McPherson didn't let off the gas as Pyle (29) and Ulsaker (21) found room to shoot. The No. 4-ranked team in Class 5A couldn't find a way to stop the No. 1 team.
"We play a different style of basketball, and I feel like there are only a few people in the state that are able to run with us," Ulsaker said. "In the first half they were amazing at being physical, but it's tough to sustain something like that for four quarters if you're not used to it."
The Bullpups (15-1, 7-0 AV-CTL Div. II) trailed Andover Central 32-30 at half-time but started the third quarter with a flashy 7-0 run to take the lead, which it would hold for the rest of the game. Ulsaker started and finished the run with two fast-break layups, and Pyle provided the meat in the middle with his first three-point basket of the night. Those scores were part of a larger 13-2 scoring spurt by McPherson that stretched back to the end of the second quarter. Itwas spurred by a Travell Robinson fast-break, two-handed dunk.
Andover Central (12-5, 5-2) held the lead and the momentum for most of the first half. Cole Kretchmar and Zach Winter scored six points for Andover Central and Adam Wilks hit a put-back layup as time expired in the second quarter.
The Jaguars led by as many as eight points in the second quarter, with Wilks and Stiverson pulling down defensive rebounds and throwing the ball down court for quick scores at the other end. Andover Central coach Jesse Herrmann talked to his players at halftime about keeping up the intensity for the remainder of the game.
"I just wanted to make sure we weren't happy to be in the game," Andover Central coach Jesse Herrmann said. "And we weren't. Our guys competed well tonight and did a lot of things right. I thought we handled their pressure well."
Stiverson cut his team's deficit to 56-52 with 4:17 left after a putback, but McPherson countered by scoring six unanswered en route to the win. In the team's first game of the season McPherson picked up a 59-56 win at home. After fighting it out with the top team in Class 5A twice, Andover Central is feeling confident about its chances of advancing far in Topeka in March.
"They're definitely better than a lot of teams we're going to see at state," Wilks said. "They are a good team to measure up against. I think once we get a couple more games under our belt we'll be ready."
McPherson (15-1, 7-0) 13 17 19 20 — 69 Andover Central (12-5, 5-2) 21 11 10 17 — 59
MCPHERSON: Hart 4, Pyle 29, Ulsaker 21, Hambly 5, Cape 4, Robinson 6. Totals 24 (3) 18-27 69.
ANDOVER CENTRAL: Lock 7, McWhorter 5, Clements 9, Winter 11, Kretchmar 8, Koenings 2, Wilks 11, Stiverson 6. Totals 24 (3) 8-16 59.