SALINA — Bishop Miege’s spidery 6-11 sophomore Bol Bol fancies himself as a shooting guard.
You’d think being a player of that height in high school, he’d be stationed a couple of feet from the basket.
But the son of the late former NBA star Manute Bol has a remarkable skill set. With his Stags suddenly behind McPherson High 54-51 after leading most of the game, Bol slinked outside to cast off a 3-pointer, the first one Miege had attempted all night as all their baskets had come within point-blank range.
The ball feathered the net to tie the game with 6:46 remaining and moments later he went inside to score on a finger roll. From there, it was all Stags as they closed out the game strong for a 69-59 victory, denying the Bullpups their third straight Class 4A Division I state championship and handing them only their third loss in the last 74 games.
Any other night their effort would have been good enough to win. MHS was outstanding from 3-point by making 12 of 27, but it’s hard to overcome a team that makes 25 of 40 shots and knocks down 18 of 26 at the foul line, where MHS had just 10 opportunities, missing just one.
“Give them credit, I’m never going to take away from somebody that wins a state championship,” said MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon, who has guided the Bullpups to six in his tenure. “That (Bol’s 3) was a big momentum point in the game. We just had to hit shot after shot. You have to play almost perfectly because second shots don’t come easy against those guys.”
In fact, MHS had only 14 rebounds in the game as Miege more than doubled it by snaring 29. With the 6-11 Bol and 6-8 freshman phenom Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — as well as 6-6 Joshua Early and 6-5 Jospeh Gleason – the length the Stags presented was overwhelming.
The Pyle brothers did their best to keep it close. After MHS got down 22-15 after a quarter, the Bullpups clawed back within three at the half, 33-30, and then had a terrific third quarter by scoring 22 points, making 6 of 7 3-pointers to lead 52-51. Marcus McDaniel joined the fray in that quarter, scoring eight of his 11 points.
But the Stags took away the Pyle brothers in the fourth quarter with a triangle-and-two defense, and all the Bullpups for that matter. They scored only seven points and were just 2 of 14 in the final quarter.
The MHS seniors go out having won state twice and finishing second once. McDaniel, Drew Pyle, Jacob Loecker and Spenser Wine lost only to Wichita North and Blue Springs South in their final three seasons before tonight.
“Those seniors had a tremendous career,” Kinnamon said. “Credit to them. There’s a lot of heartbreak in the locker room because they invested a lot and they cared. The message to the young kids was ‘remember what this feels like because we don’t like it.’”
Robinson-Earl, who is going to be a monster star before he’s through, finished with 16 points to lead the Stags, but the unsung hero was Joseph Gleason, who got the start because Francesco Badocchi was injured on Friday and couldn’t play. Gleason, who started against MHS in last year’s semifinal loss, was devastating with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Bol also scored 14 and Semaj Ray had 10.
Ben Pyle was incredible by burying 5 of 8 treys and scoring 23 points, while big brother Drew had 22. McDaniel finished with 11, but only one other Bullpup scored as Jake Alexander had three.
The Bullpups now look ahead to next year with Ben Pyle at the epicenter as he’s the only returning starter.
“I think the future is bright,” said Kinnamon, who is 428-72 in his 21 years at MHS. “Obviously Ben is going to be one of best players in the state before he’s done. We have some other young guys who are going to be extremely good. I’m excited about that.”
Kinnamon said his team couldn’t have dug down deep without the backing of some 2,500 MHS fans that gave the Bicentennial Center a Roundhouse feel.
“What a great atmosphere, great crowd support, everybody was behind us,” Kinnamon said. “It was loud. It was just fun.”
MHS (59) — McDaniel 4-6, 0-0, 11; Loecker 0-1, 0-0, 0; D. Pyle 7-15, 5-5, 22; B. Pyle 7-13, 4-5, 23; Wine 0-1, 0-0, 0; Labertew 0-0, 0-0, 0; Alexander 1-8, 0-1, 3; Seidl 0-2, 0-0, 0. Totals — 19-46, 9-11, 59. 3-pointers — D. Pyle 5, B. Pyle 3, McDaniel 3, Alexander 1.
Miege (69) — Gleason 6-10, 2-5, 14; Ray 2-7, 6-6, 10; Weber 1-2, 4-6, 6; Bol 6-7, 1-1, 14; Robinson-Earl 7-9, 2-4, 16; Downing 0-0, 0-0, 0; Lopes 0-0, 1-2, 1; Early 3-5, 2-2, 8. Totals — 25-40, 18-26, 69. 3-pointers — Bol 1.