In recent years, a McPherson High boys basketball loss has occurred about as often as Halley’s Comet.
The comet lights the sky once every 76 years. The Bullpups on Tuesday lost for only the fourth time in 76 games.
The sun did come up in the East on Wednesday like it always does, even if it was obscured by a smattering of snowflakes. Nobody died. It was a loss, plain and simple. Turn the page. On to the next one.
It was interesting to see the reaction of Bullpup Nation. I was quizzed by several diehard fans on Wednesday about what happened and I was truthful — on this night Derby was the better team.
This wasn’t chopped liver the Bullpups were playing. Derby is a 6A school and the odds-on favorite to win AVCTL Division I. It has some key players who were part of the Panthers’ state championship football team from 2 weeks ago. Winning flows through their veins and they’re not going to be intimidated by a 4A school.
The Panthers had a dynamite point guard who controlled the tempo of the game, Nyjee Wright. The Bullpups normally cause opposing point guards to crack under their pressure, but Wright was never ruffled. In fact, there were times he looked as though he was either playing at super-sonic speed, or that he was in actual time and everybody else was in slow motion. The Panthers also had a pure-shooting guard in Trevor Gordon, who lit it up for 21 points. Kenyon Tabor is a KU football oral commit and a powerful athlete.
So that McPherson lost on the road shouldn’t be sending fans into apoplectic shock. The margin of victory was surprising to say the least, especially with the Bullpups having held a one-point lead at halftime.
About every coach I’ve ever talked to says the first 5 minutes of the second half determine a winner. And after MHS came out and turned it over three straight times to start the half — which Derby converted into 7 points — I knew the game was starting to get away.
What people have to remember is this is a Bullpup team with all underclassmen, except for reserve Clayton Gerbrandt, the team’s lone senior. Ben Pyle is the only returning starter and Thomas Diggs is starting after having missed last season, so he’s almost like a sophomore. Wyatt Seidl is playing with a painful shoulder injury and MHS has yet to have Mason Alexander, who had to sit out the first two games because of the transfer rule. His adroit ballhandling skills against Derby’s havoc would have come in handy.
So everybody needs to take a deep breath and exhale. Granted after what Derby did to the Bullpups on Tuesday, some of the luster has been taken off Friday’s game with Miege, which features a lineup that goes 6-8, 6-7, 6-6 and 6-5. But Kurt Kinnamon hasn’t won 429 games and lost only 73 in his MHS coaching tenure without knowing a thing or two. He’ll have the Bullpups as ready as they can be and hopefully since this is Miege’s first game, it will need a half to knock off the rust.
And Miege probably has never played before a frenzied crowd like the Roundhouse will be on Friday. McPherson fans will show up en masse and I’ve even had people from out of town tell me they want to see the game, if for nothing else to see Miege wunderkind 6-8 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, one of the Top 10 sophomores in the country. Like Derby, the Stags have a bullet-quick guard in Semaj Ray, who is similar to Wright and he’s an experienced hand.
McPherson scheduled these tough games for a reason. It probably took a lot more from Tuesday’s loss to Derby than the running-clock victory over El Dorado as the Panthers exposed the Bullpups’ flaws of handling the ball against pressure and a lack of 3-point shooting. Derby’s defense very seldom allowed MHS’ players to get their feet set as the Bullpups were sped up beyond their liking.
There’s a lot of season left to be played. And I’ll have a feeling the Bullpups will be in Salina in March just like they always are. Just be patient.