It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for McPherson High School basketball fans.

The allure and magic of a rowdy McPherson Roundhouse is almost upon us as the McPherson High boys basketball team opens up the first round of the McPherson Invitational at 8:15 p.m. Thursday night against Shawnee Mission East.

The Bullpups are the No. 4 seed taking on the fifth-seeded Lancers in a rematch of last years first round. McPherson won that game 80-73 in double overtime.

Shawnee Mission East is 3-3 on the year with wins over Southeast, Bishop Seabury Academy and Olathe South. Their losses have come at the hands of Barstow, Lawrence Free State and Olathe East. SME has had three games postponed due to inclement weather.

Head coach Kurt Kinnamon is preparing for a variety of attacks from the Lancers. He expects to see man-to-man and zone defenses, along with an offense that is comfortable scoring in the half court and in transition.

“This Shawnee Mission East team is similar in that they play hard and have a certain toughness about them,” Kinnamon said. “They are disciplined and well coached.”

The Lancers do not have overwhelming size like they have had in the past. Senior center Liam George does most of his work inside with his 6 foot 4 inch frame. Junior forward Jack Schoemann is the tallest player on the roster at 6 feet 5 inches.

The boys are going for their 23rd McPherson Invitational championship in the tournament’s 53 year history. After a 6-4 start to the season, the Bullpups are in search of some momentum to carry them the rest of the regular season and into the postseason.

“Our kids thrive on the atmosphere the Roundhouse provides,” Kinnamon said. “There is no better venue in the state.”

With a win, the Bullpups would presumably play No. 1 seed Maize, barring an upset from No. 8 seed Mill Valley, at 8:15 p.m. Friday. With a loss, they would player the loser of Maize-Mill Valley at 4:45 p.m. Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, Manhattan (5-2) plays Hutchinson (2-6) at 3 p.m., followed by Wichita Heights (7-2) and Blue Valley West (2-5) at 4:45 p.m.