The McPherson High School boys basketball team had another challenge at hands Tuesday night when the undefeated and experienced Andover Central came into the Roundhouse and spoiled their home opener with a 62-51 win over the Bullpups.
The Bullpups suffered a huge blow two minutes in the first quarter when Jake Alexander injured his ankle. He was not seen on the court since. After he was taking out, the Bullpups started rolling as they went on a 7-0 run. However, the Bullpups were in early foul trouble, so head coach Kurt Kinnamon had to rely on his bench players to step in. The Bullpups found youth in Seth Madron, Hayes Schmid, and Sam Pyle. All three combined for 20 points coming off the bench. Cody Stufflebean stepped up in the scoring margin as he led the Bullpups with 20 points and nine boards. Head coach Kurt Kinnamon wasn't happy with the loss, but was impressed with his young Pups hanging in there against a Jaguars team that returns four of its starters from last season.
"I thought they did a great job. I thought that are younger guys really did a great job. Cody was tremendous," Kinnamon said. "I thought that the guys we brought off the bench were tremendous. I thought Hayes was good. I thought Cooper was good, and I thought Sammy was excellent, did a really good job creating a mismatch inside."
The Jaguars started to catch up and made a 7-0 run of their own. Careless turnovers and miss communication kept the Andover Central in the game, yet the Bullpups were still in control as they led 30-23 at halftime.
In the second half, all things fell apart right in the beginning of the third quarter. The Jaguars took advantage of the absence of Alexander. Xavier Bell, who was lights out all night for the Jaguars, put up eight-straight points. Andover Central captured their first lead of the night, leading 33-32 with 4:52 left in the third quarter. The Bullpups regain the lead, but it continued to be a tight ball game.
"Xavier (Bell) is a tough matchup. He's a very tough player, and without Jake (Alexander) guarding him, that's a pretty tough spot to put a freshman. He's physical and jumps well. He can score with either hand," Kinnamon said.
It was back and forth all through the fourth quarter. The Jags has been creating pressure on the Bullpups, setting up a full-court trap and forcing 15 turnovers on the Bullpups. It worked in their favor as the Jags continued to attack the basket, and taking fouls on McPherson, which put Central in the free throw line 26 times, making 19 of their free throw shots.
"It's tough when you lose Jake (Alexander) as everyone looks around, and probably we would've handle the pressure a lot better at the end," Kinnamon said.
Andover Central earned their highest lead of the night at 47-40 in the fourth quarter with 5:37 left. The The Jags remained in control all through the fourth quarter, leading as high 10 points, and never looked back. The Bullpups couldn't catch up, and let another game slip away. With the loss, Kinnamon continues to search for the team's identity while taking on tough opponents in their non-league schedule.
"We're going to continue to work, get better and know what are strengths are," Kinnamon said."You just move on. There's nothing else to do. We got a game Friday night and have to get ready for it."
The Bullpups will return to the Roundhouse on Friday as they take on Derby High School on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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