Kurt Kinnamon knows what’s at stake every year in the first round of the McPherson Invitational Basketball Tournament at the Roundhouse.
The success of the tournament is predicated on his Bullpups winning their first-round game to make sure they're in the evening session on Friday and Saturday.
So it’s no wonder why Kinnamon puts so much emphasis on the opening game, which this year for the Bullpups will be no bargain on Thursday.
On paper, the 8-1 Bullpups would appear to be a prohibitive favorite against 1-8 Shawnee Mission East.
But this season is an aberration for the Lancers, who have been one of the tournament’s cornerstones for many years. Coach Shawn Hair always brings a competitive team into the Roundhouse and Kinnamon said that’s the case again this year as he wants his team to disregard the Lancers’ record. They are coming off a 66-64 loss to Shawnee Mission West, an indication they're not that far away from being successful.
“Shawnee Mission East is a scary matchup as they have lost several close games and have not really been blown out by anyone,” said Kinnamon, whose team takes to the floor for the 8:15 finale. “The scary thing about them is that they play just loose enough that they are not going to be intimidated just walking into the Roundhouse like many are.”
The Bullpups have rebounded nicely from their late December 71-70 loss to Blue Springs (Mo.) South for four straight wins. For the most part they have been dominating, though Buhler pushed them in a matchup of teams then ranked Nos. 2 and 3. The return of Spenser Wine from shoulder surgery seemingly has galvanized the team, and the Pyle brothers — Drew and Ben — have been playing at a rarefied level. Ben Pyle especially has ramped up his game recently as he’s taken some of the offensive heat off Drew, including 25 points against Rose Hill on Friday.
Shawnee Mission East will provide plenty of obstacles.
“Their inside game is a key as they start two 6-5 kids up front,” Kinnamon said. “They will play a variety of defenses and do a good job of changing the defenses. They like to play fast and get the ball up the floor, so transition defense will be a key.”
And with Hair on the sideline, the Lancers will be amped up. He’s one of the more demonstrative coaches around and his teams resemble his personality.
If the Bullpups get past the Lancers, they would play Friday’s late game against Blue Valley West (3-4) or Bishop Carroll (4-5), which features a marquee coaching matchup of BVW’s Donnie Campbell (a Lyons native) and Carroll’s Lonnie Lolar, who longtime MHS fans will remember from his foot-stomping days at Derby.
On the bottom side of the draw, Derby (5-4) and Junction City (4-5) meet at 3 p.m., with No. 2 seed Lawrence Free State (7-1) and Wichita North (4-5) clashing at 4:45.
While Free State is the lone team of the four with a really outstanding record at 7-1 and ranked No. 5 in Class 6A, it’s a field loaded with schools with strong sports traditions that play difficult schedules.
This is the 52nd year of the tournament, with corporate sponsors this year being Midway Motors, Farmers Alliance and Viega.