SALINA — Kyler Kinnamon did not want to inconvenience his grandparents, but they’re sure glad he did.
The grandson of Kay and Jerry Kinnamon, after struggling mightily all night with his shooting, scored the game-winning basket on an old-fashioned 3-point play Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament, as McPherson High survived Paola 59-56 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. championship game against Topeka Hayden, which squeaked past El Dorado 50-48 in an equally tense semifinal game.
MHS will be seeking its 12th state championship, which would put it one behind second-place Newton, while Wyandotte is still far and away the boys’ leader with 20. However, both of those programs have been dormant on the state scene for quite some time while MHS has had staying power. The Bullpups’ last state title came in 2011 at Topeka and it was the fourth of coach Kurt Kinnamon’s career. A success Saturday and he would break the tie with Mike Henson, who won four titles during the 1990s.
Kyler Kinnamon scored on a twisting, off-handed shot and drew the foul with 27 seconds left in OT. He made the free throw for a 58-56 lead and the Bullpups then had to survive a potential game-winning 3-point attempt by Chase Jorgensen, who saw his shot perfectly swatted by Drew Pyle with just a few ticks left. Paola then fouled Kinnamon, whose free throw provided the final margin.
For Kay and Jerry Kinnamon, however, their grandson’s heroics created a dilemma. Both of their sons — McPherson’s Kurt and St. John’s Clint — are coaching at the same time Saturday for state championships. Clint Kinnamon’s St. John Tigers are going for a perfect season in the 2A title game at Manhattan against Plainville and two of his key players are sons Kade and Cole.
Kurt Kinnamon isn’t sure his heart can take much more as Paola pushed the Bullpups to the brink of elimination.
“We were outmanned,” said Kinnamon, whose team overcame a height and weight deficit. “Paola has got a really good team. How they lost six games I have no idea. Give them credit, they’re a very nice basketball team. Coach (Dave) Cash does a good job.”
But Kinnamon’s lithe team continues to find ways to overcome the physical odds. However, the Bullpups had to call on all their famed McPherson magic.
Early on, the Bullpups were on fire. Up 11-3, they appeared to be in total control.
But the Panthers played to their strengths by pounding it inside. They pulled within 21-18 by half’s end and were down 30-29 after three quarters, as the choppy game featured countless fouls and less-than-inspiring free throw shooting.
But the shackles seemed to come off in the fourth quarter as the teams played ping pong with the lead. Lucas Wilson, who had 15 of his 16 points after half, gave Paola a 49-47 lead with 1:19 to go, only to see the terrific Peter Horton answer with exactly a minute left.
Paola attempted to go for the final shot, but Ryan Horton drew a charging foul with 13.9 seconds remaining and MHS got the ball for a potential game-winner. The Panthers, though, played airtight defense, forcing Kinnamon to heave up a wild shot. However, Ryan Horton was there to tip the ball and it hung tantalizingly on the rim for a couple of seconds before falling off.
MHS trailed three different times in the overtime, 51-49, 54-53 and 56-55, the last coming with 1:17 to go. With the Bullpups down one, Pyle missed a shot with 50 seconds left, but Jorgensen inexplicably traveled with 42.7 seconds left despite not being pressured. MHS then got the ball to Kinnamon, who until that time had gone 2 for 11. He got into the lane and threw up a circus shot with 27 seconds left that rolled in and he finished off the And-1. Then the final wild seconds played out, with Pyle’s block a thing of beauty.
“Huge, huge, huge,” Kinnamon said of Pyle’s gem. “You know he got out on him (Jorgensen), he’s long. He’s not a leaper, but he’s long and did a good job of getting there. We told them a two would tie it, but we’ve got to cover the 3-point line.”
Peter Horton played the game of his life, scoring 22 points and pulling down nine rebounds despite battling the 6-5 Wilson and 6-7 Mason McDow all night.
“I knew one of the Hortons was scoring, but I didn’t know which one. I never do,” Kinnamon said. “It must have been Pete. Good job Pete.”
Kinnamon finished with 13 points. McDow had 15 of his 18 points after half and was especially big in the fourth quarter as he kept Paola’s upset bid alive.
“The thing I’m most proud of is as far as a high school basketball game goes, that’s about as entertaining to watch as you can see,” Kinnamon said. “That’s two teams tremendously giving everything they have. That’s what I’m most proud of. People get tired of me saying disparaging things about us, our physical stature, but golly, they just go and I love them for that.”
This will be the 22nd time the Bullpups have played for a state championship and Hayden certainly will provide a huge obstacle.
“I just hope that didn’t take so much out of us that we come out flat and not ready to go tomorrow because there’s going to be some tired young men,” Kinnamon said. “They (Topeka Hayden) also were in a heck of a game. They’ve got a nice team. If Marcus Meier scores the first 20 points of the game (as he did Friday against El Dorado) against us, then we’ve got a real problem. Overnight the Horton boys are going to pump a little iron and come out and be ready to handle ol’ Marcus Meier and we look forward to tomorrow night. When you start the season, this is what you want to do. You want to have a chance to play for a state championship and we got that.”
MHS (59) — McDaniel 0-0, 0-0, 0; Pyle 2-5, 0-1, 5; Kinnamon 3-12, 6-9, 13; R. Horton 4-5, 0-2, 8; P. Horton 8-12, 4-6, 22; Wine 2-4, 2-4, 6; Nutter 1-3, 1-2, 3; Gabel 0-3, 2-2, 2. Totals — 20-44, 15-26, 59. 3-pointers — P. Horton 2, Pyle 1, Kinnamon 1.
Paola (56) — Slawson 0-1, 0-0, 0; Criddle 0-4, 3-6, 3; Henn 0-4, 3-6, 3; Robison 0-1, 0-0, 0; Jorgensen 3-6, 1-1, 7; McDow 7-14, 1-2, 18; A. Wilson 1-1, 0-1, 2; L. Wilson 6-9, 4-6, 16; Long 2-4, 2-2, 7. Totals — 19-44, 14-24, 56. 3-pointers — McDow 3, Long 1.