Kyler Kinnamon literally gave his blood, sweat and tears to will McPherson High back to the state basketball tournament.
The Bullpup junior guard survived a nasty gash to the head that spewed blood to the point of blinding him, forcing him out of Saturday’s Class 4A Division I sub-state championship game against Abilene.
Until then, though, he had done plenty to place the Bullpups in a comfortable position. His 19 first-half points, which included an improbable 3-point bank shot right before the half ended, propelled MHS to a 33-17 lead and it coasted from there for a 49-30 victory, avenging last year’s gut-wrenching loss to the Cowboys.
Kinnamon finished with 21 points, but went out with 3:56 left in the third quarter when he received an unintentional elbow to the face from Abilene’s Jesse Patrick. MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon decided to milk the clock the rest of the quarter before Peter Horton tallied with 2 seconds left and MHS was home free with a 40-21 lead. Kinnamon did return after being stitched up and piloted the team in the fourth quarter.
The Bullpups will take the No. 1 ranking and 20-1 record to Salina’s Bicentennial Center Thursday, with Kansas City Sumner the expected opponent. Times will be announced on Sunday morning.
MHS suffered a glitch last year when it missed the state tournament, but will be making its 10th trip in the last 13 years.
The Bullpups started fast, sprinting to a 17-7 first-quarter lead behind 12 points by Kinnamon, and for all intents and purposes lived off that advantage the rest of the way.
“I thought we did a good job of not letting them run their many sets,” Kurt Kinnamon said. “They’re used to passing the ball to the wing and doing whatever they want to do, but that’s not how works against our defense.”
When Kyler Kinnamon picked up his second foul with 6:22 left in the first half, the Bullpups went more to their zone and it was a staple the rest of the way.
“This (Abilene) is a team that if you look at the two teams, which one would you pick if you were going to have a basketball team?” Kinnamon said. “I know which one I would pick. If you look at the last line of our scouting report, I said I’m sure glad I’m coaching us instead of them. But if you look at it just from an airport standpoint (Abilene was much bigger and much more physical), I’d pick them.”
Peter Horton, who was sometimes lost battling the forest of trees that Abilene planted on the court, sliced his way to 14 points. MHS shot 56 percent for the game and turned it over only nine times.
Abilene, which had 20 turnovers that led to only 34 field goal attempts, was led by Patrick with nine points.
The Bullpups will now have the bullseye on their back at state, which also includes AVCTL Division III members Winfield and El Dorado. Also in are Independence, Basehor, Paola, Hayden and Sumner.
“There are so many things that go into a successful basketball team,” Kinnamon said. “I think the thing that makes this team pretty special is that we do a lot of those intangible things that don’t show up in the box score, it’s the extra pass, it’s the being in the right position, it’s being unselfish, not caring who scores. I am extremely proud of these guys. I don’t know if I’m more happy or relieved, I’m obviously both, but I’m relieved because I felt like we had a team that was capable of getting there and once you get there, anything can happen.”
MHS (49) — Pyle 1-5, 2-2, 4; Kinnamon 8-12, 1-2, 21; McDaniel 0-0, 0-0, 0; R. Horton 0-0, 0-0, 0; P. Horton 6-9, 1-2, 14; Wine 0-1, 0-0, 0; Nutter 3-5, 1-2, 7; Gabel 1-2, 1-2, 3. Totals — 19-34, 6-10, 49. 3-pointers — Kinnamon 4, P. Horton 1.
Abilene (30) — Schwarting 0-2, 0-0, 0; Hoekman 0-2, 0-0, 0; Kelly 3-12, 1-2, 7; Wilson 1-6, 0-0, 2; Patrick 3-5, 2-5, 9; Harms 1-2, 0-0, 2; Goodwin 4-4, 0-0, 8; Barbieri 1-1, 0-0, 2. Totals — 13-34, 3-7, 30. 3-pointers — Patrick 1.