When it comes to the state tournament, McPherson High boys coach Kurt Kinnamon leaves nothing to chance as he watches hours and hours of film of the Bullpups’ opponents.
While his 18-4 team would appear to be a heavy favorite against 11-11 Labette County in Wednesday’s 4:45 p.m. Class 4A Division I state opener at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center (formerly the Bicentenntial Center), Kinnamon in no way is looking ahead to a potential showdown Friday with No. 1 seed Kansas City Piper.
“Labette has been hot as of late,” Kinnamon said. “Their best player is Easton Dean, a 6-5 sophomore. He really finishes around the rim and is a defensive force. Tanner Russell is a tremendous shooter. Probably as good of a shooter as we have seen. We will have to make sure to get great shots. I anticipate that they will zone us.”
Labette advanced after being the No. 3 sub-state seed at Independence, but it knocked off Chanute and Coffeyville to move on. The Grizzlies were a 41-38 winner over Coffeyville as Javon Reliford led the scoring with 14 points, Dean tallied 13 and Russell had 11 as they scored all but 3 points.
The Bullpups, on the other hand, advanced by knocking off state-ranked Buhler 56-39 in the sub-state finals, their third straight win this season against the Crusaders, the second on their home court. MHS’ defense has been tremendous during its 12-game winning streak, a run that started during the McPherson Invitational.
The Bullpups probably have a decided strength-of-schedule advantage as in the past teams from the southeastern corner of the state have not fared well on the big stage. MHS took on SEK member Chanute two years ago in the first round and won 66-31.
Kinnamon said standout guard Mason Alexander appears to be OK after he suffered an apparent knee injury late in the Buhler game and sat out the rest of the way. Alexander is MHS’ primary ballhandler and locked down Crusader star Tanner Lackey on Saturday, holding him to 1 of 8 and just 6 points.
Should MHS win, it would play at 4:45 p.m. Friday against either 20-2 Kansas City Piper or 8-14 Andover Central.
“Andover Central will have to shoot it well,” Kinnamon said. “They shoot more 3s than any team that I have seen. Piper is outrageously fast and athletic. I think Piper will probably be the favorite.”
On the other side of the bracket, it’s a given that Miege will stroll through as it plays Louisburg on Wednesday and most likely Abilene on Friday, provided the Cowboys don’t stumble against Mulvane.
“Miege is still what they were. Not playing as well lately, but still the prohibitive favorite,” said Kinnamon, whose team lost to the Stags 87-54 earlier this season.
Catch all the state action this week on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Voice of the Bullpups Matt Cole on the call.
• WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE •
3:00 — Kansas City Piper (20-2) vs. Andover Central (8-14)
4:45 — McPherson (18-4) vs. Labette (11-11)
6:30 — Abilene (19-3) vs. Mulvane (9-13)
8:15 – Miege (19-3) vs. Louisburg (10-12)