BUHLER — Kurt Kinnamon says first-round sub-state basketball games often are the hardest.
His McPherson High boys found themselves down 12-11 after a quarter to unheralded Ulysses, which played with no fear on Thursday as it had nothing to lose and everything to gain in the Class 4A Division I semifinals.
But then MHS started to play the “Bullpup Way” and all became right in the world.
The Bullpups, after firing away with 8 3-point attempts in the first quarter, started to take the ball to the basket and the result was a 27-point second quarter, the impetus to a 69-49 rout to advance to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. finals against host Buhler, the third meeting of the year between the teams.
The Crusaders outlasted Hays in overtime 44-38 to advance.
“You’re just happy to move on,” said Kinnamon, whose team now has won 11 straight to improve to 17-4 overall. “I wish I could say in my 22 years that this (struggling early) has never happened before, probably it’s happened in half the games. I told the guys in the locker room it will be the hardest game because you have to make your own emotion and it was almost like a scrimmage coming out.”
Ulysses made 5 of 9 shots in the first quarter, but then its selection was suspect in the second period as MHS outscored the Tigers 27-8 to tear a hole in the game.
“I thought once we got on a run we did a pretty good job,” Kinnamon said. “It (the slow start) concerns me a little bit, Ben (Pyle) in particular, he was so amped up that he got tired real quick. I think certainly on Saturday we’ll be just as high emotion-wise. We’ve got to find a way to temper that a little bit.”
Mason Alexander led the second-quarter surge with 11 of his game-high 20 points. MHS had nice balance as Pyle scored 13, Jake Alexander added 11 as did Drew Labertew.
Zachary Zerr and Bryan Garcia were a double-barreled attack for Ulysses with 17 and 16 points, respectively. The impatient Tigers launched 59 shots, but made only 17.
MHS and Buhler have had a couple of slugfests so far and while both teams are probably two of the eight best in 4A D-I, only one can go. The teams have played two spirited games, with MHS winning both, though both could have gone either way.
MHS (69) — Labertew 4-4, 2-4, 11; Stufflebean 0-0, 1-2, 1; Hoover 1-1, 0-0, 2; M. Alexander 7-13, 3-4, 20; Jk. Alexander 4-8, 2-2, 11; Diggs 2-3, 0-0, 5; Pyle 5-13, 2-6, 13; Jy. Alexander 2-4, 2-2, 6. Totals — 24-45, 12-20, 69. 3-pointers — M. Alexander 3, Labertew 1, Jk. Alexander 1, Diggs 1, Pyle 1.
Ulysses (49) — Tayor 1-12, 0-0, 3; Perez 0-1, 0-0, 0; Gallegos 0-1, 0-0, 0; Zerr 5-13, 3-4, 17; Romero 2-9, 0-0, 5; Pauda 3-5, 2-3, 8; Garcia 6-15, 3-3, 16; Walker 0-3, 0-0, 0. Totals — 17-59, 8-10, 49. 3-pointers — Zerr 4, Tayor 1, Romero 1, Garcia 1.