Friday night’s McPherson Invitational semifinal game between McPherson High and Wichita Heights was everything you would expect considering the pedigree of the two teams.
On one side, you had the four-time defending Class 6A state champions, who, while sitting at 5-4, still possessed enough tools to cause some waves for anyone they faced.
On the other, an 8-1 Bullpup team playing before an electric crowd at the Roundhouse, where so much magic had been seen in the past during the 49 years of the McPherson Invitational.
The two teams battled hard for two halves of basketball, but, when the final buzzer sounded, McPherson stood tall 59-50.
“I thought we did a nice job against a really strong team,” McPherson head coach Kurt Kinnamon said after the win. “(Heights) had won something like six in a row and, not only that, but no one’s scored more than 50 against them. I was very pleased.”
The zone defense of Heights gave the Pups some headaches early, as they tried to figure out the kinks in the armor before finally settling on sharpshooting, with both Ryan and Peter Horton sinking three pointers, with Marcus Houghton adding one of his own in the first quarter to give MHS a 14-11 advantage.
Heights responded in the second quarter, with the Falcons going for the jugular on a 12-2 run, forcing a number of McPherson turnovers to create the separation.
That was when Kyler Kinnamon decided to bring the Roundhouse crowd to its feet.
The sophomore popped up with a three pointer to break the Bullpup scoring drought and sparking an amazing 11-2 momentum swing that put McPherson up on top at the half 27-25.
“Sometimes against really quick guards, that just get’s (Kyler’s) juices going,” Kurt Kinnamon said of his guard.
McPherson and Heights were in a virtual dead heat in shooting from the field in the first half, with the Bullpups shooting 10-for-22 and the Falcons putting up 10-for-23. McPherson led in three point shooting, however, making 5-of-12 while Heights only managed 2-of-8.
The third quarter saw McPherson keep their momentum going with a 6-2 run, keyed by Kinnamon and Peter Horton three pointers. Heights wouldn’t stop fighting, however, making it to within five points of the Pups before Kinnamon once again set off a short run that pushed the lead back out to nine at the end of the quarter, 40-31.
Heights head coach Joe Auer gave his team a pep talk in between the third and fourth quarters that obviously resonated, as both Semaj Hervey and Ealy Bell started pushing the offense and pulling the Falcons to within five points. Another short run would pull them to within four points with only 28 seconds left on the clock, but foul shots from Kinnamon and Marcus Houghton sealed the Bullpup victory.
Page 2 of 2 - “I couldn’t be more happy for a group of kids,” Kurt Kinnamon said. “That’s what this tournament is for; to get better. And I thought we got better tonight.”
Keaton Sorenson was huge under the glass for McPherson in the win, pulling down 16 boards, 11 of which were on defense. He also scored 14 points to pick up the double double.
Kyler Kinnamon ended with 19 points. Peter Horton had 12 and Houghton 11 to round out four Bullpups in double digits.
Hervey and Bell both had 14 points for the Falcons.
For the game, Mcpherson was 18-of-41 from the field and 16-for-25 from the foul line. Heights shot 20-of-48 and 6-0f-11 from the charity stripe.
McPherson just won the rebounding battle 30-28.
Heights had 13 turnovers to McPherson’s 10.
The win sets McPherson up for a Nos. 1-2 clash in the McPherson Invitational finals, as Shawnee Mission East also advanced with a 48-36 win over Blue Valley West in the other semifinal game Friday.
“I told the guys, ‘overnight, if you want to grow four or five inches, that would be awesome,’” Kinnamon said. “You look at that team, there’s not a team in the KCAC that’s bigger than them. They’re very skilled. (Zach) Schneider’s a very good player and (Vance) Wentz has not played as well as he’s capable of.”
The Bullpups and the Lancers will tipoff at approximately 7:30 p.m. at the Roundhouse.
Wichita Heights — Hervey 4-17 4-4 14; Lowe 3-9 0-0 7; Reed 3-5 1-1 8; Bell 7-11 0-1 14; Wilbeck 1-1 0-1 2; Arnold 0-1 1-2 1; Ellis 2-3 0-2 4.
McPherson — Houghton 3-5 4-6 11; Sorenson 5-12 4-8 14; Kinnamon 5-11 7-8 19; Horton, R. 1-4 0-0 3; Horton, P. 4-9 1-1 12.