From the players to the coaches, it was all smiles for the McPherson High School boys basketball team after a vital 69-55 win over Shawnee Mission East in the opening round of the McPherson Invitational Thursday night.
The normal stars stepped up as they usually do with Jake Alexander scoring 20, Ben Pyle scoring 18 and Mason Alexander adding 12. But the Bullpups received contributions from role players like Thomas Diggs who scored 10 points, while Jayse Alexander, Kyler Hoppes and Wyatt Seidl played significant minutes off the bench.
It was the exact performance head coach Kurt Kinnamon wanted to see after the disappointing loss to Andale last time out. The Bullpups will play No. 1 seed Maize at 8:15 p.m. Friday night.
“It’s a good win, I thought we showed some good toughness, we had guys that made plays and we won the rebounding battle,” Kinnamon said. “I’ve always said the first round game is always the hardest. It’s a different atmosphere than we’re used to playing in.”
The Bullpups could not have asked for a better start as a 9-3 run out of the gate really set the tone the rest of the way.
Shawnee Mission East would make it a one possession game later in the quarter, but Mason Alexander’s 3-pointer as the first quarter expired gave the Bullpups a 24-17 lead after one.
The Bullpups continued the momentum into the second quarter, jumping out to a double-digit lead before the Lancers went on a 4-0 spurt to force a timeout from Kinnamon.
Shawnee Mission East was kept at arms length the rest of the half as the Pups took a 35-31 lead into the break.
There was not a lot of scoring done by either team in the third quarter, but the Bullpups ended it on a 5-0 run to take a 44-35 lead into the final quarter.
From there the Bullpups began to pull away. They took a 12 point lead around the five minute mark, and remained ahead by double-digits the rest of the game. McPherson outscored SME 34-24 in the second half in a game they never trailed.
“I was pleased we were able to score off some set plays,” Kinnamon said. “We’re looking forward to playing in front of a great crowd tomorrow night.”
The Bullpups shot 48 percent from the field including 47 percent from beyond the arc.
There was a different style of play from half to half, as the Bullpups shot 13 3-pointers in the first half compared to just four in the second half. Kinnamon said it was a major point of emphasis at halftime to get the ball inside.
In the other games, Manhattan steamrolled Hutchinson, 53-35, thanks to a 19-2 start to the game. Tommy Ekart led Manhattan with 14 points.
They will play No. 7 seed Blue Valley West in the other semifinal game Friday night, after a 62-58 upset of No. 2 seed Wichita Heights. Tied 32 at halftime and trailing by five entering the fourth quarter, Blue Valley West outscored Heights 18-9 in the fourth quarter to shock the higher seeded Falcons.
West’s Mikey Chalupa led all scorers with 26 points.
McPherson High’s semifinal opponent, Maize, was an easy 61-29 winner over Mill Valley. Maize rode a 25-10 halftime lead to a 32 point blowout. The Bullpups face Maize at 8:15 p.m. Friday.