The Chicken Little faction of McPherson High boys basketball fans definitely fretted when the Bullpups started the season 0-3, which sent historians scrambling through the record books for the last 0-3 start.
You would really have thought the sky was falling when MHS lost to Andover, Andover Central and Derby to open the season. It was just so un-Bullpup-like as MHS experienced life on the dark side for the first time since 1976.
A closer look shows the Bullpups lost two of those games by 2 points and against Andover Central, MHS was up 7 points at the half before the Jaguars turned it on and they are considered as perhaps the team to beat in Class 5A.
But veteran coach Kurt Kinnamon stayed the course. He insisted this team would get better. Those who follow the Bullpup program closely know this is the first major rebuild in more than a decade as Kinnamon graduated five seniors, many of them part of four MHS teams that played in state championship games.
Remember, when that group of just-graduated seniors were juniors, they were 6-4 at the halfway point of the regular season. And how did that work out? A spot in the state finals opposite of Miege.
The Bullpups completed the arduous climb back to .500 on Thursday with an 87-76 victory over Class 6A Dodge City. If this game had been played at high altitude, oxygen masks would have been needed for players and fans alike. The game featured a blistering pace as when MHS would score, Dodge City would score quicker.
The up-and-down game was fun to watch, but it’s not one the Bullpups would like to be involved in often. They beat the Red Demons as their own game, but it’s not a style that Kinnamon favors. The Bullpups were trying to run clock at the end, but Dodge City guarded so lightly that they scored when the opportunity presented itself and totaled 35 points in the final quarter.
Every game right now is so important. Seeding for the McPherson Invitational is right around the corner and there are some good teams, including Lawrence Free State, which is No. 4 in Class 6A — and a team MHS plays late in the season. Had the Bullpups continued their 0-3 start, most likely they would have played the Firebirds in the opening round.
Maybe that thought has spurred MHS on. Kinnamon said at the start of the year he thought this would be a good-shooting team, but 3-point shooting is the Achilles Heel right now and the Bullpups have had to rely more on the inside game, led by Cody Stufflebean. The muscular junior was 8 of 11 last night and he’s now 36 of 46 on the year, numbers similar to what Jonathan Coachman posted in his senior year of 1991 when he started 29 of 34.
The Bullpups’ rise could depend on the ankle of Jake Alexander, who started to resemble his expected form last night by scoring 20 points. He’s still about 75 percent as he’s lacking some of his explosiveness and that has affected his confidence. Hopefully the holiday will help him.
A plus has been the development of the bench. Freshman Seth Madron is showing flashes of being a future standout, while Cooper Courtney, Hayes Schmid and Sam Pyle have provided really good minutes. Madron had 10 points on Thursday, Courtney pulled down 11 rebounds and Schmid buried one of the rare 3s MHS had at a key time. Pyle did a good job on the offensive glass as it’s nice to know there’s little falloff when the starters go out.
MHS has three D-III games to start January and remember it’s 61-0 in D-III since dropping into that classification. The Bullpups have a chance to get to 6-3 by Invite time.
Relax. The sky is not falling.