SALINA — Finally, some normalcy returned to the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament at the Bicentennial Center.
After Nos. 2 and 3 seeds Independence and Basehor had been upset Thursday in the first two games of the opening round by Topeka Hayden and El Dorado, respectively, it took No. 1 seed McPherson High to turn the bracket right side up.
And it took coach Kurt Kinnamon’s disgust with his team just one defensive possession into the game to swing the outcome in the Bullpups’ favor.
Kinnamon abandoned his traditional man-to-man defense in a heartbeat when he determined his team would not have the quickness to stay with the stealth-like Sabres.
Sumner’s crooked shooting against the unexpected zone led to a shocking 30-9 MHS halftime lead and after the Bullpups weathered a shaky third quarter, they completed a 53-38 victory to advance to Friday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal game against Paola, which struggled mightily with Winfield before emerging with a 51-48 victory behind 20 points by 6-7 sophomore handful Mason McDow.
Kinnamon’s angst proved to be his team’s elixir. Sumner shot a dreadful 19 percent from the field in the first half and 20 percent at the line to record one of the all-time first-half state lows. But the Sabres opened the second half with a 16-3 blast to cause some MHS fans to grab the Pepto before MHS regained its footing.
“I was disappointed because it took about one minute to see that we had only one guy who could guard them man to man,” Kinnamon said. “But when we went zone, it’s no different, you’ve got to guard the ball. We did a really good job out of that (zone). They didn’t shoot it very well and that makes a defense look good when they don’t shoot it well.”
The Bullpups’ 21-point halftime lead was reduced to 12 in a matter of 1:29 to start the second half as Sumner played with renewed energy. But it was so tepid from 3-point it could never get close enough for true MHS panic to set in.
“In this situation, these kids want it awfully, awfully bad,” Kinnamon said. “What I’m still seeing is that they’re tight. They’re just not having fun, and it’s not loose and free. When you’re beating somebody 30-9 in the first half, you ought to be enjoying that a little more. I’m all about having your game face on and being ready to play and this and that, but it’s too special for these kids not to enjoy that ride. I’d like to see them do that a little more.”
Kyler Kinnamon led the Bullpups, now 21-1, with 14 points and also was a defensive menace, including early back-to-back steals in the first quarter that led to a pair of Drew Pyle layups. Spenser Wine was immense off the bench with 10 points — including 6 of 6 at the line — and he also played big with five rebounds. Avery Gabel added eight points off the bench and took the ball hard to the basket to challenge the Sabres’ collection of human pogo sticks.
“Spenser did a really good job, especially from the free throw line,” Kinnamon said. “And Avery’s never afraid to attack.”
Sumner’s offense mainly consisted of it taking tough shots and then going right after them for put-backs. But MHS, despite giving away some size, did show some toughness on the boards.
“We ended up out-rebounding them by six and I thought that was the key to the game,” said Kinnamon, whose team ripped down 31 to 25 for the Sabres, with Ryan Horton leading the way with seven to go along with his four assists.
Derek Sykes led Sumner with 18 points and he was 7 of 14 from the field, but his teammates combined for just 7 of 27. Sumner did shoot 10 of 20 in the second half to reach 34 percent for the game.
MHS (53) — McDaniel 0-1, 0-0, 0; Reed 0-0, 0-0, 0; Loecker 0-0, 0-0, 0; Pyle 2-7, 2-2, 6; Barrett 0-0, 0-0, 0; Kinnamon 4-8, 4-5, 14; R. Horton 0-3, 0-0, 0; P. Horton 2-4, 0-0, 6; Stiebens 0-0, 0-0, 0; Wine 2-3, 6-6, 10; Nutter 3-5, 2-3, 9; Gabel 2-4, 4-6, 8. Totals — 15-35, 18-22, 53. 3-pointers — Kinnamon 2, P. Horton 2, Nutter 1.
Sumner (38) — Taylor 0-3, 1-2, 1; Young 1-2, 0-0, 2; Faison 1-4, 0-0, 3; Marshall 1-5, 1-2, 3; Billberry 0-1, 0-0, 0; Dea. Sykes 3-8, 0-0, 6; Jackson 0-2, 1-3, 1; Perkins 1-2, 1-5, 4; De. Sykes 7-14, 4-6, 18. Totals — 14-41, 4-6, 38. 3-pointers — Faison 1, Perkins 1.