MCPHERSON – Not only did the McPherson Middle School seventh-grade girls basketball team close out the 2022 season with four games in eight days, they did so by staying undefeated and winning the Wichita Suburban League tournament title in the process.
Beginning on Monday, December 5 when the Junior Lady Pups traveled to Salina South and split the ‘A’ and ‘B’ games, to Thursday, December 8 hosting and sweeping a pair of games from rival Hutchinson to Saturday’s semifinals of the league tournament to Monday, when they won the league title – it has been a whirlwind finish to the 2022 season.
The final stretch began with the closing out of the regular season schedule where the Junior Lady Pups ‘A’ team gaining wins over both Salina South, 41-10, and Hutchinson, 41-6 while the ‘B’ team lost 23-28 to Salina South before bouncing back and winning 33-9 against Hutchinson.
In the first game of the league tournament, the Junior Lady Pups defeated Hutchinson for the second time in three days, this time by a score of 38-24.
In the league championship matchup with Salina Lakewood, McPherson won 43-33.
Here is a summary of the final four competitive dates for 2022 and the 8th grade Junior Lady Pups:
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5 – AT SALINA SOUTH
Against Salina South on Monday, December 5 the 8th grade Junior Lady Pups ‘A’ team went on the road and blasted Salina South, winning by 31 points, 41-10.
Jaela Thompson led the team in scoring with 19 points while Piper Alvord chipped in with seven.
“The girls played another outstanding game,” noted head coach Heidi Ricke. “They showed a marked improvement on their offensive sets against the zone while the girls won the defensive battle by only allowing 10 points. Brynn LittleJohn had another outstanding game as she led the team in rebounding. Piper Alvord had a great night as well and did a great job stepping into the point position when called upon. I am really proud of how hard the girls are continuing to work.”
‘A’ team scoring: Jaela Thompson – 19; Piper Alvord – 7; Rylie Whitfield – 6; Brynn LittleJohn – 5; Carmin Pavlovich – 2; Molly Owen – 2.
In the ‘B’ game, the Junior Lady Pups fell short of a win by five points, losing 23-28 despite having seven players putting points in the scorebook led by nine from Molly Owen.
‘B’ team scoring: Molly Owen – 9; Ari Prose – 4; Rylee Holt – 3; Sara Diaz – 2; MacKaylie Woltje – 2; Rylie Clemmons – 2; Amia Barrera-Prado – 1.
“The girls in the ‘B’ game did a great job battling even though we came up short,” explained coach Ricke. “The girls have a lot to be proud of as they continue to show improvement every time they take the court.”
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8 – HOSTING HUTCHINSON
On Thursday, December 8 the 8th grade Junior Lady Pups closed out their unbeaten regular season hosting rival Hutchinson where the ‘A’ team hammered the Lady Salthawks in winning by 35 points, 41-6.
Jaela Thompson had a huge game in recording a triple-triple by leading the team in points scored with 30 and rebounding where she pulled down 10 as well as making 13 steals on defense.
“What a way to end our regular season, undefeated,” pointed out coach Ricke. “This group of girls are so impressive. I always know that they are going to come and play their hearts out. Jaela Thompson was unreal; it is pretty special to watch her play. The girls came out and played great defense which caused a lot of fast break points. I am so incredibly proud of these girls and how they are really coming together and play as a team.”
‘A’ team individual stats: Jaela Thompson – 30 points, 10 rebounds, 13 steals, 1 assist; Piper Alvord – 4 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals, 1 assist; Ari Prose – 3 points; Carmin Pavlovich – 2 points, 2 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists; Rylie Whitfield – 2 points, 1 steal, 1 assist; Moly Owen – 1 rebound, 1 steal; Sara Diaz – 1 assist.
It was much the same in the ‘B’ game as the Junior Lady Pups put Hutchinson away by 24 points, 33-9.
Rylee Holt led the team in scoring with 10 points while Amia Barrera-Prado had eight. Sara Diaz swiped six steals and MacKaylie Woltje topped the team in rebounds with five. McPherson recorded 24 steals in the game.
According to ‘B’ team coach Stalnaker, “They played great as a team, and everyone got involved at both ends of the court. I am really proud how the girls stepped up every time we faced adversity during the season. It’s been really fun watching them get better every day.”
‘B’ team individual stats: Rylee Holt – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals; Amia Barrera-Prado – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals; Ari Prose – 5 points, 1 rebound, 5 steals; MacKaylie Woltje – 4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals; Arrianna Nowell – 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Molly Owen – 2 points, 1 rebound, 3 steals; Riley Clemmons – 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Sara Diaz – 3 rebounds, 6 steals.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10 – LEAGUE TOURNEY IN SALINA
On Saturday in the league tournament, the 8th grade Junior Lady Pups tangled with Hutchinson for the second time in three days, also getting a win but only by 14 points at 38-24.
Jaela Thompson continued on a tear offensively as she scored her second straight double-double with a team high 25 points and 10 rebounds while also leading the team in steals with six. Piper Alvord just missed double digits with nine points.
“We started out slow, but we were down a couple of starters due to illness that hindered our regular game plan,” explained coach Ricke. “Molly (Owen) and Ari (Prose) both came through and did a great job of stepping up. Huge props to Hutchinson who came ready to play. Hopefully after a couple of days rest, we will be ready for the championship game on Monday.”
Junior Lady Pups Individual stats: Jaela Thompson – 25 points, 10 rebounds, six steals; Piper Alvord – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal; Riley Whitfield – 4 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals; Ari Prose – 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Molly Owen – 1 rebound, 3 steals.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 12 – LEAGUE TOURNEY IN SALINA
In Monday’s Wichita Suburban League championship game, the 8th grade Junior Lady Pups hung on to earn a 10-point, 43-33 win over Salina Lakewood.
The win also meant the Junior Lady Pups finished the season unbeaten as well.
“This group of girls are something special,” commented coach Ricke. “Tonight, these girls showed a lot of grit and heart as they finished their MMS career going undefeated and winning the league championship.”
Jaela Thompson once again was the offensive juggernaut for McPherson as she led the team with 24 points while Piper Alvord just missed double digits with nine points and Brynn LittleJohn topped the team in the paint by pulling down 11 rebounds.
Coach Ricke concluded her post-game and post-season reflections by saying, “Offensively they came out and executed their plays and protected the ball with zero turnovers in the first half and ended the game with just six turnovers total. Jaela (Thompson) had another outstanding game while every single girl played great defense and really left it all on the court. Molly (Owen) and Piper (Alvord) both played really good on both sides while Brynn (LittleJohn) had a good night under the basket and Rylie (Whitfield) played tough and was huge in setting the screens to get Jaela open. I am just so proud of these girls and the amazing season they have had. They practiced hard and it has been so fun watching them come together as a team.”
Junior Lady Pups Individual stats: Jaela Thompson – 24 points, 3 rebound, 1 steal; Piper Alvord – 9 points, 1 rebound, 3 steals; Rylie Whitfield – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Brynn LittleJohn – 4 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal; Molly Owen – 1 rebound.
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