Same song, fourth verse.
McPherson High's boys and Buhler, who seemingly play every other week, will be matched for a fourth time Friday night in the opening round of the Class 4A Division I Sub-State Tournament at the Roundhouse.
Game time is 7:30 p.m., with the 6:00 lead-in game matching Abilene against Ulysses. The winners meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the championship and the right to play next week at Salina’s Bicentennial Center.
The Bullpups ride into the weekend with the bullseye of a No. 1 state ranking on their backs. They are 18-1 and one bad first quarter against Wichita North removed from being 19-0.
Buhler is 7-13, but three of the losses have come to the Bullpups. The first two games, both McPherson routs, were played at the Roundhouse — one coming in the McPherson Invitational — while the teams recently met in Buhler, with the Bullpups again cruising after they wiped out an early 10-2 hiccup.
“We have a strong sub-state. Facing Buhler in the first round should be exciting for our fans,” MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said.
The Bullpups are led by twin seniors Peter and Ryan Horton, who are the closest thing to size that MHS has. While they're in the 6-4, 6-3 range, both are long and skilled but have little bulk. They also can step out and shoot the 3-pointer. Peter averages 9.1 points and Ryan 7.9.
The rest of the team consists of underclassmen. Junior point guard Kyler Kinnamon makes it all go and is a cinch All-Stater as he averages 16.6 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 steals. He's coming off a 21-point game that included five 3-pointers. Junior Nathan Nutter (7.0) provides toughness, while sophomore Drew Pyle (9.7) has emerged as a solid scorer and improving defender.
Sophomores Spenser Wine and Avery Gabel are practically like starters. Wine has been on a tear in recent games, closing the season with a 21-point salvo against Rose Hill.
The general feeling is that if the Bullpups just play their game, they should be fine. Buhler has some good talent, but has had trouble handling the ball against the MHS pressure defense, which has led to standout sophomore Jace Williams not getting many touches. He’s an incredible athlete who has wowed the Roundhouse crowd with some rim-rattling dunks.
If the Bullpups can continue their mastery of Buhler, they would most likely play Abilene, the team that ended their season a year ago and comes in ranked No. 10 in the state.
“I look for Abilene to beat Ulysses,” Kinnamon said. “Abilene has just as much size as Blue Valley West does.”
The Cowboys, though, are missing three key ingredients to the team that overcame a 17-3 deficit to stun the Bullpups 59-55 in All-State guard Andy Wilson, center Jacob Harms and guard Matthew Barlow. But they have rebuilt on the fly and produced a quality season.
McPherson was at state two years ago, losing in the first round to Ottawa. The Bullpups were 5A state champions in 2011.