From top to bottom, head coach Kurt Kinnamon could not have been more pleased with his team’s grit and determination.

The McPherson Invitational always brings out the best in not only the players, but the fans as well.

Friday night, the home crowd carried the McPherson High School boys basketball team to a 61-49 win over Shawnee Mission East in the semifinals of the MIT. Down by as many as nine points in the second half, the Bullpups scraped and clawed until the final whistle, pulling out perhaps the most impressive win of the season.

Without third leading scorer Jake Alexander, the Bullpups relied on the entire team for production. Ben Pyle played all 32 minutes, Mason Alexander played over 30 minutes, and four more Bullpups — Drew Labertew, Thomas Diggs, Jayse Alexander, and Cody Stufflebean — all played over 21 minutes.

From top to bottom, head coach Kurt Kinnamon could not have been more pleased with his team’s grit and determination.

“I always tell my guys the things that make me most proud and make me get emotional are when I have guys really lay it out there on the line and really compete,” Kinnamon said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask for out of kids.”

The fourth quarter was special.

Down by six, the Bullpups outscored the Lancers by 18 points in the fourth, including a 14-2 run to finish the game. It was the closest double digit win McPherson High has experienced in a long time.

Without Jake Alexander in the starting lineup, the McPherson offense was out of sync to start the game. Shawnee Mission East jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Mason Alexander put the Pups on the board with a midrange jumper at the 4:52 mark of the first quarter.

Alexander’s jumper was the start of a 7-0 run for McPherson that tied the game. Diggs drilled a corner 3-pointer to give the Bullpups a 10-9 lead, but the Lancers closed the quarter on a 7-4 run.

Mason Alexander did bank in a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to cut the SME lead to 16-14.

The second quarter was low scoring. A Jayse Alexander 3-pointer gave the Bullpups a momentary 20-18 lead, but SME closed the half on a 7-1 run for a 25-21 halftime lead.

The Lancers extended their lead to nine points at the 2:35 mark of the third quarter before Jace Kinnamon made perhaps the biggest shot of his McPherson career — a 3-pointer to bring the Bullpups to within three points. Again, the Lancers closed the half on a run to take a 42-36 lead into the final eight minutes.

The Bullpups wasted no time in the fourth quarter capturing momentum. Jayse Alexander nailed a triple 13 seconds into the quarter to make it a one possession game. Pyle nailed two free throws on the next McPherson possession to cut the deficit to a single point.

When Shawnee Mission East’s Zane Meeks connected on a 3-pointer to give his team the lead, Mason Alexander answered right back with a 3-pointer to tie the game again.

At 47-47 with 5:29 left in the fourth quarter, the Bullpups closed the game on a 14-2 run for a well-earned victory.

“I don’t think there’s any question in the fourth quarter how hard we competed,” Kinnamon said. “I don’t like to use the word tough, unless it’s deserving. They were flat out tough tonight.”

Pyle finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. He made 10-of-12 from the free throw line. As a team, the Bullpups made 17-of-21 of their free throws.

Mason Alexander finished with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Jayse Alexander was 3-for-4 and scored nine points in his first start of the season.

Along with playing a season-high 22 minutes, Stufflebean provided much needed size and had five offensive rebounds. As a team, the Bullpups had 15 offensive rebounds compared to 11 defensive rebounds.

McPherson will likely be without Jake Alexander again Saturday night against Bishop Carroll, although he did participate in warmups on his sprained foot.

“It’s got to be next man up,” Kinnamon said, and they just were.”

Alexander would be a big boost for the Bullpups, but Bishop Carroll will be tough regardless.

Kinnamon had high praise for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles.

“They are as close to playing like a McPherson team as McPherson teams,” Kinnamon said. “They move the ball, they cut hard, they’re good passers who don’t take bad shots.”

Game time for the 54th McPherson Invitational Championship between McPherson and Bishop Carroll is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Contact Gallagher Martin by email at and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel