There were plots and subplots, with plenty of twists and turns thrown in for good measure.
It was a fascinating championship game Monday night as the McPherson College Summer Basketball League dropped the curtain for yet another year at the Sport Center.
You couldn’t have asked for more angles. The game matched defending Class 4A Division I state champion McPherson High against defending Class 2A state champion St. John.
The undercard was the coaching matchup of the Kinnamon brothers, Kurt for McPherson and Clint for St. John. Then you had two of last year’s All-State All-Class Top 5, Kyler Kinnamon for McPherson and Dean Wade for St. John, matching their talents.
The game exceeded the hype. It was the usual David vs. Goliath matchup, though with the 6-9 Wade displaying his considerable skill set he was the Goliath.
McPherson’s Drew Pyle picked up where he left off in last March’s state championship game. Now a little taller and a little stronger, Pyle came out raining 3-pointers just as he did against Topeka Hayden. McPherson was up 11-2 early and threatening a runaway. Pyle’s fourth 3-pointer of the first half pushed the lead to 26-11 and it had the makings of a bigger school pushing around a smaller school.
It was about that time unsung wing player Gerardo Calleros started to heat up for St. John, knocking down a couple of 3-pointers to help the Tigers draw within 30-23 by the half.
St. John’s zone began to bother the Bullpups in the second half and slowed the pace of the game. A Cole Kinnamon free throw eventually tied it at 35-all and now it was on.
No more than three points separated the teams the rest of regulation and maybe it was fitting it went into overtime. There, Kyler Kinnamon took the game over, scoring all six points of the extra session, including a steal and layup from Wade.
Pyle, whose improved game is going to surprise people next year as he is an All-Stater in waiting, scored 19 points. Kinnamon added 18 and Avery Gabel, another player whose stock will rise next year, tallied 12.
Wade scored 17, Gerardo Calleros tallied 11 and Jorge Calleros added 10.
Several thoughts to take away from this game:
• St. John was undefeated last year on its way to winning the 2A title. It will do so again next year. Wade is an exceptional talent who can handle the ball like a guard. He definitely needs to add weight and strength, but there’s no question he’ll be the highest-rated recruit in the state next year as he’s so agile and nimble. But the Tigers are more than just Wade. The Calleroses are talented and Cole Kinnamon is only a sophomore who should only get better.
• As good as the Bullpups were this past year, I think they can be as good or better next year, though maybe not as good defensively. It will be difficult to replace the Horton twins, but the improvement in last year’s important sophomore trio of Pyle, Gabel and Spenser Wine will make up for it. Kyler Kinnamon, of course, will be a year older and stronger and he’s a proven talent, one of the best five players in the state. Class 4A Division I, however, may be the most competitive class in Kansas next year, as the top teams at state were dominated by underclassmen.
• The Bullpups will again have a lack of size. However, a couple of last year’s JV players appear to be getting stronger and could chew up some valuable minutes. Hopefully Kinnamon will be able to develop depth as he certainly has no shortage of candidates.
• The two teams have met twice this year, with the series now tied at 1-1. St. John won by eight points in a tournament at Hutchinson. Clint Kinnamon, the more ebullient of the two brothers, immediately said after the game that maybe a rubber match is needed. I’m not so sure, it kind of keeps people wondering.
• This was a banner year for the Summer League. The tourney’s third-place finisher, Hesston, rates a strong chance to repeat in Class 3A next year. Like St. John, Hesston was undefeated last year. Graduation has taken away stalwarts Wyatt McKinney and Ryan Schadler, but Grant Raleigh and Tyler McCartney could be two of the top five players in 3A. And coach Greg Raleigh’s role players appear to be more than ready for added responsibility, such as Scott Duerksen, Brad Simpson and Justin Smith.