ULYSSES — It had been a rough three quarters for McPherson High senior guard Marcus McDaniel.
McDaniel had more fouls (three) than points (zero) as the Bullpups took a narrow 42-41 lead into the fourth quarter of tonight’s Class 4A Division I sub-state title game against Hays.
But McDaniel, a fierce competitor, had his game face on for the final 8 minutes. He buried three 3-pointers, all of which came with the Bullpups either behind or tied. Senior All-Stater Drew Pyle scored nine late points as MHS ended the game on a 14-2 run over the final 3 minutes to escape with a 65-55 victory against a Hays team that easily deserves to be among the field of eight next week in Salina.
MHS, 21-1 and the two-time defending state champions, will be the top seed on Thursday at the Bicentennial Center and all signs point toward playing league opponent Rose Hill, which shockingly made it to state despite an 8-14 record. Official pairings will be announced Sunday morning.
This was a struggle of titanic proportions. The Bullpups had to weather 11 3-pointers by the Indians, including a six-pack by Fort Hays State-bound Isaiah Nunnery, who had four of them in the first half.
The game, however, turned when McDaniel buried a 3-pointer with 2:06 left that put MHS up 56-53. Jacob Loecker then came up with the defensive gem of the night, forcing a Hays turnover, and Pyle immediately made Hays pay by scoring. He wound up scoring the final nine MHS points.
An emotional McPherson High coach Kurt Kinnamon, who admittedly was upset with the way his team played on Friday, had a bursting heart after this one.
“Fantastic. The way those guys finished the game down the stretch I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said, his voice cracking. “It makes me so proud when guys go out and compete.”
Loecker’s hustle play, which typifies his season, turned the tide.
“The great thing about Jacob’s play, that’s never going to show up in the box score. Those kids were running on fumes. Hays substituted more liberally than we did and those kids gutted it out.”
It was a barnburner all the way. MHS led 11-10 after a quarter, 32-29 at the half and 42-41 after three quarters. Hays had the lead on four separate occasions in the fourth quarter, the last at 53-51 on a Drew Young basket. Pyle came right back to tie the game, then McDaniel hit his third 3 and the Bullpups were on their way.
Pyle played with his expected brilliance as he hit so many big shots and finished with 25 points. Ben Pyle scored all 12 of his points in the first half — including nine of MHS’ 11 in the first quarter — and Loecker had 10 monster points. McDaniel just missed doubles with his nine in the final quarter.
Nunnery filled it up for 22 points, 16 in the first half, and Young added 15. Because Hays relied almost exclusively on the 3-pointer, it did not make a free throw and had only one attempt as it casted rainbows all night.
Hays, a team loaded with seniors, ended the year 17-5 and certainly it has a gripe when some of the other sub-states were mediocre at best. It joined Basehor-Linwood as the other Top 5 team not to make state as Bishop Miege eliminated last year’s state finalist in a battle of the teams ranked Nos. 2 and 3.
MHS is now 69-2 over its last 71 games.
MHS (65) — D. Pyle 10 4-6 25; B. Pyle 4 1-1 12; Loecker 4 2-2 10; Labertew 1 0-0 3; Wine 2 2-3 6; McDaniel 3 0-0 9. Totals — 24 9-12 65. 3-pointers — McDaniel 3, B. Pyle 3, D. Pyle 1, Labertew 1.
Hays (55) — I. Nunnery 8 0-0 22; Berens 3 0-0 6; Young 6 0-1 15; Dryden 1 0-0 3; Winter 1 0-0 2; Jacobs 1 0-0 2; E. Nunnery 2 0-0 5. Totals — 22 0-1 55. 3-pointers — I. Nunnery 6, Young 3, Dryden 1, E. Nunnery 1.