With as many potential enticing matchups as there could be in the 54th annual McPherson Invitational Basketball Tournament that gets under way on Thursday at the Roundhouse, Bullpup coach Kurt Kinnamon has his focus only on Blue Valley West in the 8:15 p.m. finale.
While West is just 3-5 on the season under first-year coach Ryan Hintz, who has replaced longtime coach and Lyons native Donnie Campbell, the Jaguars are as dangerous a No. 8 seed as there is.
“This is one of those 1-8 matchups that could easily be a championship game,” said Kinnamon, whose No. 1-seeded 9-1 team is attempting to win its fourth straight Invite title and its 24th title in the 54 years of the event. “Anytime that a team has a good guard and a good big man they are going to present certain problems.”
The Jaguars are banking on the talents of 6-8 sophomore O’mar Stanley, yet another big man the Bullpups have to contend with. They’ve already gone up against the likes of 6-9 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-8 Jonny Clausing and 6-8 Grant Owens.
“O’mar Stanley is 6-8 and long and has tremendous offensive rebounding abilities,” Kinnamon said. “He also does a good job of patrolling the paint. He is only a sophomore and we hope to use some of our experience to neutralize his abilities.”
The other player to watch for the Jags is 6-1 senior Keaton Goodale.
“Keaton Goodale reminds me a lot of (Andale’s) Easton Hunter, he is tough to rattle, runs the offense well, and uses great change of pace and change of direction,” Kinnamon said. “We have to do a great job of containing him defensively and pressuring them out of their comfort zone.”
This is a different type of West team from years past. Normally playing a methodical, slower brand, the Jags have shown the ability to get up and down the floor. In two of their three wins, they have scored 78 points. They come into the game off a 49-47 win over athletic Mill Valley after having knocked off Blue Valley the game before as they are attempting to overcome a 1-5 start.
There are no gimme games this year.
“The tournament overall is as tough as I can remember,” Kinnamon said. “(Lawrence) Free State is No. 1 in 6A and only the 2 seed, Derby is No. 7 in 6A and both Shawnee Mission East and Wichita North are excellent teams that have beaten quality opponents. We are looking forward to three tough games in a row.”
The Bullpups will either play Shawnee Mission East or Wichita North on Friday. Shawnee Mission East is 5-3 on the year, two of its losses going right down to the wire. Wichita North also is 5-3 and led by dynamite freshman Jackie Johnson III, already considered one of the top players in Wichita despite being a ninth-grader.
The other side of the bracket teases of a Derby-Lawrence Free State semifinal, but both have to stay focused on the first round.
Derby already has made a visit to the Roundhouse, but that was its first game of the season and it lost to MHS 73-58 as some of its players had just less than a week of practice because of the football team playing in the state title game. The Panthers have no bargain on Thursday in Bishop Carroll, always a strong team in Class 5A.
Free State is 5-1, its only loss coming to Gardner-Edgerton. It plays an up-and-down Junction City team that has some nice wins to its credit, including a 75-71 success against Hays.
Here is Thursday’s schedule:
3:00 — Derby vs. Carroll
4:45 — Lawrence Free State vs. Junction City
6:30 — Shawnee Mission East vs. Wichita North
8:15 — McPherson vs. Blue Valley West