The ball left Jace Kinnamon’s hand and started to veer to the left, like a crooked drive off the first tee heading for the water.
As it tantalizingly wafted through the air almost suspended in time and the buzzer blasting over the din, the “uh-ohs” started to be emitted from the mouths of those wearing the red and white.
It caught the edge of the square on the backboard and somehow squirted into the basket, as the corkscrew english corrected the flight, setting off a Roundhouse scream that resembled a 747 jet airliner taking off, as men, women and children covered their ears.
Kinnamon was not, of course, the first option, but the designed play broke down and he took a pass from Jake Alexander and quickly let the ball fly, with the season’s future on the line.
Kinnamon’s miracle, bank-is-open 3 at the regulation buzzer tied McPherson High’s Sub-State Tournament semifinal game with arch-rival Newton on Thursday and forced extra basketball, putting the crowd through even more of an emotional wringer as the roar constantly foghorned through the grand old building as throat lozenges were probably the order of the morning today.
After that miracle, was there any doubt the Bullpups wouldn’t win, not to mention they were 6-0 lifetime in overtime games against Newton heading into Thursday?
The season, by all rights, should have been over. The Bullpups were down to their last breath, their last gasp. They seemingly had cashed in all their leprechauns and the magical Roundhouse fairy dust box had just a minute speck left.
But Kinnamon’s answered prayer saved the season. Still, there was work left to do and fellow senior Kyler Hoppes played the role of overtime hero with his two free throws with 1.5 seconds left when he was fouled as the Bullpups were playing for the final shot.
The final was 88-86, an unheard of score.
I’ve covered Bullpup basketball for 40 years and I immediately tried to figure out where this game ranked in the all-time greats in the Roundhouse, where they have won an almost-stupid 86 PERCENT of their games since it opened during the 1963-64 season.
Mull this over. Newton — how did this team ever lose 10 games this season? — shot 67 percent for the game, a stunning 73 percent in the second half and overtime. The Railers were 36 of 54 from the field, 7 of 14 from 3-point and still LOST. It doesn’t seem possible with those type of numbers.
The Railers’ Alex Krogmeier had the game of his life with 30 points, making 12 of 15 shots and flicking in 3-point rainbows without a miss. His stretch of 14 points in the final 3 minutes of the first half was surreal, as he knew when the ball left his hand it was going in.
Teammate Ty Berry is simply one of the best players in Kansas, maybe the best heading into the 2019-20 season.
Kinnamon, the 5-10 “power forward,” did a good job of making him uncomfortable in the first half, with help from Seth Madron. They tag-teamed him defensively to just 6 first-half points, but a player like Berry can be held in check for only so long. He is explosive to the basket and has a treasure trove of moves. He eventually scored 28 points and I hope he doesn’t spend the offseason beating himself up for missing some key free throws late. The kid is a warrior and will be a Division I player.
This stunning victory could galvanize the Bullpups, provided they have anything left in the tank. I saw this team play for each other more than it has all year as all five starters scored in double figures.
Jake Alexander displayed the stuff we expected all season with 24 points. Cousin Max Alexander took over the game in the fourth quarter with 8 straight points, but also dished for 6 assists as he had the full arsenal on display. It was a man’s game inside as Cody Stufflebean warred with Newton’s muscle flexor Damarious Peterson as they were like two brama bulls chesting up each other. Hoppes coolly knocked down a troika of 3-pointers and of course, Kinnamon’s shot will go down in Bullpup lore, much like Riley Hett’s 3-pointer against Miege last year in the Class 4A Division I state title game.
MHS coach Kurt Kinanmon employed only two subs. Madron, just a freshman, gave us a snapshot of what should be a memorable career as he is outrageously athletic. And the angular Cooper Courtney provided a huge lift in his 8 minutes of play.
The Bullpups, working on their ninth live, face the ultimate challenge on Saturday at defending Class 5A champion Carroll. The Golden Eagles played in the Roundhouse last year and believe they owe the Bullpups one for MHS winning in the McPherson Invitational title game. They’ll be fundamentally solid and play as hard as any team MHS will face all year.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to a bankshot 3.