It was a comeback for the ages.
McPherson High’s boys appeared to be all but out in the semifinals of the McPherson Invitational on Friday, down 9 points late in the third quarter to fearless Shawnee Mission East, which had ignored a full-volumed Roundhouse crowd and made Bullpup Nation squirm in their collective seats.
Since it was a time of crisis, the call went out to that old McPherson magic that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Down 36-27 with 2:21 left in the quarter, the Bullpups exploded the rest of the way and then outscored the extremely talented Lancers 25-7 in the fourth quarter for an improbable 61-49 victory to advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. finals against No. 6 seed and Cinderella entry Bishop Carroll.
"I always tell my guys the thing that makes me most proud and makes me get emotional is when I have guys that lay it out there on the line and really compete," MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said. "I don't think there's any question in the fourth quarter how hard they competed. As a coach, that's all you can ask for out of kids. I thought top to bottom they competed."
The Bullpups were stuck in the mud at the outset as they started down 7-0, but battled back within 16-14 after a quarter and even went up 20-18 on a Jayse Alexander 3-pointer with 4:50 to go, but MHS scored just 1 point the rest of the half to trail 25-21.
East’s length bothered MHS as Ben Pyle was just 2 of 10 for the half and as a team the Bullpups were 8 of 25, 3 of 12 from 3-point.
The Lancers, on the other hand, were 10 of 14 for the half, but MHS stayed in the game on the strength of its rebounding, including 7 on the offensive end.
In the third quarter the Lancers were up 36-27 when Jayse Alexander, starting for his injured cousin Jake, made an old-fashioned 3-point play, which was followed by the first 3-pointer of the year for reserve Jace Kinnamon, which blew the roof off the old edifice.
Undaunted, East surged back ahead by 7 before leading 42-36 going into the fourth quarter.
MHS started the final period fast as Jayse Alexander buried a 3-pointer and Pyle hit a pair of free throws. Another old-fashioned 3 by Pyle finally tied it at 44-all, but again the Lancers answered on a Zane Meeks trey for a 47-44 lead.
From there, it was all Bullpups. Mason Alexander took over and scored 12 points in the final 5:29 as the Lancers felt helpless as the sixth man, Bullpup Nation, lifted the team emotionally as it closed the game on a mind boggling 17-2 run.
"I don't like to use the word tough, unless it's deserved," Kinnamon said. "They were flat-out tough tonight. Just tough."
Pyle, who at times was guarded by two defenders, finished with 22 points and he had to work for them as East had a terrific game plan. Mason Alexander scored 18 and Jayse Alexander tallied 9. Cody Stufflebean battled his tail off inside for 5 points and 5 rebounds along with 2 steals.
"This a group that has been highly successful in everything they do," Kinnamon said, noting some of the players have carried over their success from football to the hard court. "That's as close to as perfect of a team win from an effort standpoint, other than the fact we couldn't run back (on defense). I could not be more proud. This is as good of a win as we've had."
Meeks was a big-time player for the Lancers with 19 points and 7 rebounds as he's a cinch for All-Tournament. Kelyn Bolton tallied 10.
East had to be shaking its head because it lost despite shooting 56 percent and turning it over only 12 times.
MHS, 11-1, now gets 7-4 Bishop Carroll in the finals. It was going to be a long night for the MHS coaching staff as most of the emphasis today was on Lawrence Free State.
"We hadn't done our due diligence scouting. We have some film, but that just means I've got to spend all day tomorrow getting ready for them," Kinnamon said. "They are as close to playing like a McPherson team as a McPherson team."
MHS is seeking its fourth straight Invite title and 24th overall in the 54 years of the event.
MHS (61) — Labertew 0-0, 1-2, 1; Mas. Alexander 6-14, 4-4, 18; Diggs 1-4, 0-0, 3; B. Pyle 5-16, 10-12, 22; Stufflebean 2-8, 1-2, 5; Kinnamon 1-1, 0-0, 3; Trost 0-1, 0-0, 0; Jys. Alexander 3-4, 1-1, 9; Hoppes 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals — 18-48, 17-21, 61. 3-pointers — Mas. Alexander 2, B. Pyle 2, Jys. Alexander 2, Diggs 1, Kinnamon 1.
SM East (49) — Bolton 5-11, 0-2, 10; Curran 2-2, 0-1, 4; Schoemann 2-4, 0-2, 6; Meeks 6-9, 5-5, 19; Kurlbaum 3-6, 2-3, 8; Maddox 1-2, 0-0, 2. Totals — 19-34, 7-13, 49. 3-pointers — Schoemann 2, Meeks 2.