McPherson High's boys turned back the clock on Friday.
It was an old-fashioned game at the Roundhouse as a frenzied, standing-room-only crowd was in full throat, willing the Bullpups to an uber-important 49-37 victory over arch-rival Buhler on Homecoming after the teams could have played the first three quarters in a phone booth, they were that close.
MHS outscored the Crusaders 18-7 in the final period as its defense contested every shot and harassed Buhler star Tanner Lackey into a 1-of-12 night as he scored 7 points after piercing MHS for 26 in the first meeting. Mason Alexander and Jake Alexander were both on him at times.
The MHS offense slogged through three quarters before catching fire. After shooting just 26 percent in the first half, the Bullpups shot it at a 52-percent clip after the break.
MHS clinched no worse than a tie for the AVCTL title as it's now 8-0, but more importantly the Bullpups are closing in on the top sub-state seed, which would mean Buhler would have to play Hays in the first round on the Crusaders' home court in a matchup of state-ranked teams.
"Very happy, very happy. This was the best atmosphere there's been in a long, long time and it's a lot of fun," MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said. "For a great cause (cancer awareness) tonight, to have so many out and to have so high level of a game, it makes you feel very good."
A halfcourt shot by Jake Alexander gave MHS a 14-9 lead after a quarter, but Buhler crept back within 18-17 before the plodding halftime was over. Nothing changed going into the fourth quarter.
Up 34-33, a Drew Labertew basket was the firestarter for a 15-2 MHS run as the Bullpups' defense was spectacular, with Labertew playing a big role. Ben Pyle scored 17 points and Mason Alexander added 11, but the contributions by Labertew could not be overstated as he had 5 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.
"You're not going to see it in the stat sheet, ever probably, yet Drew Labertew had a tremendous, tremendous impact on the game," Kinnamon said. "Four steals, just incredible help defense, drew charges, he did so many things that you have to have guys who do that. I really thought Thomas (Diggs) did a nice job. He did a better job of not getting frustrated and keeping his head up and kept playing. I could just go right down the list."
Grant Owens, the 6-7 and 260-pound center, had 10 points and 7 rebounds as he's still a nightmare matchup for the Bullpups. Kinnamon believes the teams could very well meet again and beating the Crusaders three times in a season, with two of them on their home court, is a monumental task.
The Bullpups, 14-4 overall with their eighth straight win, have no bargain on Tuesday at Towanda against Circle, which features scoring machine Cal Hartley, who is averaging over 20 points a game.
The MHS boys were an easy 60-27 winner behind 15 points by Brandon Wilson and 12 by Jace Kinnamon on four 3-pointers.
In an exciting freshman game, the Bullpups stormed back from 11 points down at half and finally tied it late on a 3-pointer by Cooper Courtney. In overtime, MHS pulled away for a 57-51 victory as Courtney led the way with a whopping 28 points.
MHS (49) — Labertew 2-4, 1-1, 5; M. Alexander 4-14, 2-3, 11; Jk. Alexander 3-6, 0-0, 7; Diggs 3-7, 0-0, 7; Pyle 7-16, 1-9, 17; Seidl 0-1, 0-0, 0; Jy. Alexander 0-2, 2-2, 2. Totals — 19-50, 6-15, 49. 3-pointers — Pyle 2, M. Alexander 1, Jk. Alexander 1, Diggs 1.
Buhler (37) — White 0-1, 0-0, 0; Lackey 1-12, 4-5, 7; Smyres 2-2, 0-2, 4; Dy. Brown 2-7, 1-2, 5; Owens 5-8, 0-1, 10; Smart 1-4, 2-3, 5; E. Brown 3-6, 0-0, 6. Totals — 14-40, 7-13, 37. 3-pointers— Lackey 1, Smart 1.
MHS JV (60) — Hoover 5, Myers 4, Kinnamon 12, Ky. Hoppes 2, Wilson 15, Trost 8, Milleson 2, Seidl 6, Jay. Alexander 6.
MHS 9th (57) — Ka. Hoppes 9, Richardson 8, Schmid 3, Lopez 3, Koehn 1, Courtney 28, Pyle 5.