Eventually, MHS boys drew Labette

By Steve Sell
March 06, 2017

After a confusing 30 minutes on Sunday, the McPherson High boys finally did draw Labette County for Wednesday’s Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament opener at Salina.

When KSHSAA first released its brackets, it did have the McPherson boys taking on Labette County, but listed the Bullpup girls playing Wellington.

That caused immediate confusion. The McPherson girls, as everyone thought, would be the No. 4 seed and play Paola. For whatever reason, Miege was seeded No. 4 behind MHS even though the teams had the same records and it had defeated the Bullpups during the regular season.

Also on the first bracket, McPherson’s boys were listed with a 19-3 record, instead of the 18-4 mark it finished with.

Then a bracket came out with McPherson’s girls playing Paola (as it should have been), but the boys were listed as playing Louisburg.

Finally it all got straightened out, with McPherson’s boys playing Labette as expected and the Bullpup girls taking on Paola.

I’m sure KSHSAA can’t be too happy with the fact there are only four 4A D-I boys teams with a winning record in the state tournament. Ranked teams like Eudora (which had only three losses, but was in with Miege), Buhler (which lost to McPherson) and Hays (which lost to Buhler) were certainly state-worthy, but their spots were taken by teams such as 8-14 Andover Central, 9-13 Mulvane and 10-12 Louisburg. Labette is only 11-11 as form would seem to indicate the top four seeds should have no trouble.

Let me just give this warning — don’t fall asleep on No. 8-seed Andover Central.

As for the Bullpup boys, they’ll be facing a Southeast Kansas League (SEK) team in the first round much like they did in 2015 when they were matched against Chanute. The result was a 66-31 rout, the precursor to a 79-68 victory over Miege. In the championship game that year, MHS outlasted Basehor-Linwood 74-60.

SEK teams historically haven’t fared as well as teams from other parts of the state. They simply don’t play the type of schedule that readies them for the state tournament. I should know, I grew up in the SEK and years where I thought we had some good teams, they made a quick exit.

After 10 games this season, MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon admitted he wasn’t sure if his team was going to get things figured out. The Bullpups were just 6-4 and red flags were popping up all around. Losses to Derby and Miege were somewhat understandable, but losing to an Andover team that wound up with a losing record and a 10-point home loss to Andale (scoring only 43 points) was unexpected.

But in the McPherson Invitational, things finally clicked. Perhaps the firestarter to the turnaround was an emotional semifinal victory over Maize, which set up a championship game win over Manhattan. Since then, the Bullpups haven’t looked back as every win has been by double digits.

It started on the defensive end. MHS has been in serious lockdown mode with several games where opponents scored less than 40 points, including the sub-state championship game where the Bullpups suffocated Buhler into a 13-of-45 effort and just 39 points.

The key at state for the Bullpups will be to get the ball inside. When they are playing inside-out, that’s where they are most dangerous. They also have to stay out of foul trouble and not allow second shots. If they do that, don’t be surprised if we have an MHS-Miege rematch in the state finals. Miege won last year’s game after the Bullpups were up early in the fourth quarter. The teams then met in Game 3 this season at the Roundhouse, with Miege playing a near-perfect game for a comfortable victory.