Lawrence Free State gave the McPherson High boys all they could handle through three quarters Thursday night at the McPherson Invitational, but the Bullpups pulled out a 53-44 win to move into the semifinals.
MHS had some early difficulties guarding D-I college recruit Khadre Lane, allowing the 6-4 junior to control the early stages of the first quarter. Bullpup head coach Kurt Kinnamon made a switch in the second quarter, though, moving Peter Horton off Lane and having Marcus Houghton guard him, instead.
“I thought Peter would be a good match for (Lane),” Kinnamon said. “I realized early on that was a coaching error because he is just too athletic. Marcus did a fantastic, fantastic job of guarding a kid who is a great, great athlete.”
Lane did end up leading all scorers at the half with 10 points, as Free State took a 22-20 advantage into the locker room with the Bullpups breathing right down their neck.
The third quarter saw McPherson come out with determination, holding the Firebirds fairly quiet as the defense buckled down, forcing key turnovers. The offense caught fire, also, as a pair of three-pointers from Horton would cap off an 18-7 third for the Pups.
Free State would fight in the fourth, but couldn’t come back from the third quarter knockout punch from MHS.
Keaton Sorenson led the Bullpups with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting and narrowly missed a double double with eight boards. Houghton finished with 14 points.
“Marcus just played tonight,” Kinnamon said of the senior’s effort. “Marcus didn’t worry about whether the refs made a bad call, he didn’t worry about this or that, Marcus just played. Which is awesome.”
Horton and Kyler Kinnamon both finished with 10 points on the evening for McPherson.
Lane led all scorers with 19 points, while teammate Cody Scott came off the bench with 12 and Cole Moreano added 10 for the Firebirds.
The win sets McPherson (8-1) for a semifinal showdown with four-time defending 6A champion Wichita Heights, who advanced after a thrilling, overtime win over Hutchinson in the 6:30 p.m. game Thursday.
“It’ll be fun,” Kinnamon said. “Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd in here and get a little Roundhouse magic going.”
Free State will face Hutchinson in the consolation bracket semifinals at 4:45 p.m.
Tipoff for the Pups and the Falcons is tonight at approximately 8:15 p.m., following Shawnee Mission East and Blue Valley West.
Lawrence Free State — Moreano 4-8 0-0 10; Scott 4-7 2-2 12; Caro 1-4 0-0 3; Lane 8-12 1-2 19.
Page 2 of 2 - McPherson — Houghton 5-7 3-4 14; Sorenson 7-12 2-5 16; Kinnamon 3-8 4-6 10; Horton, R. 1-3 1-2 3; Horton, P. 3-5 2-2 10.
Follow Chris Swick on Twitter @SwickSentinel or contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.