McPherson High’s boys basketball team knows it has to ramp it up tonight if it wants a chance to go for a 3-peat on Saturday at Salina’s Bicentennial Center.
The two-time defending state champion Bullpups slogged through their Class 4A Division I State Tournament opener on Thursday against Rose Hill to advance to tonight’s 8:15 semifinals against Andover Central.
While most teams would be ecstatic with a 19-point win, it came against a Rocket team the Bullpups had pounded by more than 30 points twice previously. And it was just a one-point game, 21-20, with 4 minutes left in the first half when the somewhat uninspired Bullpups awoke from their slumber to reel off a 16-2 run to put the game on ice.
MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon wasn’t surprised with the so-so performance. It’s human nature for a team that has blitzed an opponent twice during the season not to be totally dialed in, even though it was the first round of state. This has happened before to the Bullpups in tourney play where they struggle in the first round, with a big bounce-back game in the second round.
The Bullpups, despite a size advantage, fell in love with the 3-pointer against Rose Hill and made only 7 of 23. I always consider 3-pointers to be Fool’s Gold, as you always have that shot available and sometimes teams settle for the trey instead of making the extra pass to get the ball inside.
The Bullpups did have good balance, but their 43-percent shooting mark was well below their season average and one of their lowest of the year. But they dominated the glass — Drew Pyle had a career-high 13 rebounds — and as usual took care of the basketball, committing just 10 errors.
Tonight’s opponent is a different animal. Andover Central ran up and down the court unabated on Thursday against Wamego, racking up an impressive 87-60 victory.
The Jags are uber-athletic. They poured in 12 3-pointers and certainly gained a ton of confidence. MHS must be ready from the get-go as a slow start could lead to an uphill battle the rest of the way.
MHS must find a way to contain Darraja Parnell, who powered his way to 26 points and he’s been a scoring machine since his freshman year. However, it was guard Nicholas Taylor who lit it up with six 3-pointers and 27 points to lead the way.
Andover Central isn’t overly big, but loves to play at a high-octane level and certainly won’t be in fear of the Bullpups as it has played a tough schedule.
The other semifinal should be a dandy. Paola, from what everybody told me, was the best team on the first day, but playing Coffeyville might have had something to do with that. It has the size to give Miege a good game today. I watched the Stags in their game with Eudora and even though Bol Bol is 6-11 and about 185 pounds, he plays outside and launches 3-pointers, making three of them in fact. Miege has tremendous size with Bol, 6-8 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and 6-6 Francisco Badocchi. Running the show is still Semaj Ray, who had an off-night shooting the ball on Thursday but can score on any given night.
While Miege is expected to win, don’t be surprised if the Panthers take them down to the wire. MHS had to play Paola a couple of years ago and was pushed to the limit. The Panthers have a lot of toughness, which could bode well against Miege.