Kurt Kinnamon probably wishes the 2014-15 basketball season would begin today.
Kinnamon’s McPherson High boys, coming off their 12th state championship and the fifth under his tutelage, continued their storming rampage through the summer season on Saturday by winning the McPherson College MAYB Tournament at the Sport Center.
The Bullpups appeared to be in midseason form as they defeated part of McPherson College’s incoming freshman class in their first game, outlasted a good Mid-Kansas team in their second game and then again defeated the Bulldogs’ neophytes 66-59 in the finals.
It was the Bullpups’ second championship of the week, as Monday they had defeated defending Class 2A state champion St. John in the finals of the McPherson College Summer League.
It’s obvious the next edition of the Bullpups is on par with the defending champs with the room to perhaps be better. They must replace stalwart twins Ryan and Peter Horton, along with the spirit provided by the courageous Keshawn Sewell.
But as they say, the best part of being a sophomore is that they soon become juniors. And in Drew Pyle, Avery Gabel and Spenser Wine, never have truer words been spoken.
I have watched the Bullpups extensively in their offseason and the improvement of the sophomore troika has been monumental. Pyle exudes confidence in his shooting, perhaps buoyed by his remarkable performance in the Class 4A Division I state championship game against Topeka Hayden. Gabel appears to be much sleeker and has no fear in taking the ball to the basket. Wine is developing into a rock, doing all the little things despite being undersized.
You already know what you’re going to get with All-State All-Class lock Kyler Kinnamon while fellow senior Nathan Nutter has upped his game as he plays with a lot of intensity and relishes the challenge of going up against bigger players.
For this tournament, the bench consisted of Kyle Smith and future Bullpup staples, freshmen-to-be Mason Alexander and Ben Pyle.
The two freshmen received a thorough indoctrination this weekend and passed with flying colors. Granted, they both have to mature light-years both mentally and physically, but there’s little doubt they’re the cornerstones down the road. They have the game and the pedigree.
In the championship game against some of Tim Swartzendruber’s recruits (a couple of his inside players could not compete because of injuries), the Bullpups displayed the precision and teamwork that will be the benchmark of next year’s team. Pyle scored 16, Gabel 14 and Kinnamon 13. Toss in eight from Nutter, seven from Wine and six from Alexander and that offset the 1-2 punch of Mac’s Louis Parker (24) and Aaron Bacchura (23).
This team already knows "the Bullpup way." The extra pass, the in-your-face defense and high basketball IQ. There will be a lot of hype going into this season and this team will be up for the challenge, I can assure you.
• GIRLS RETOOLING — McPherson High's girls went 2-2 in their division, with a pair of wins over the Oklahoma Lightning, while losing twice to the Dream Team, which included recent McPherson High graduate Hannah Willems and recent Moundridge grad MacKenzie Suderman.
The Bullpups weren't at full strength, missing a couple of key inside players. This is definitely going to be a rebuilding year, as coach Chris Strathman must replace starters Willems, Abby Pedersen, Janae Barnes and Brooke Bate.
It was a guard-heavy lineup that took to the floor. Madison Hoffman and Cassidy Wedel were the only seniors and it's evident the Bullpups should be solid on the perimeter.
"Overall I was very pleased with our girls," said MHS assistant coach Mike Reith, who was guiding the team this weekend. "We did not shoot as well as we could in any of the four games, we had trouble finishing around the basket at times, and we weren't as sharp as we could be, but the girls gave great effort, had tremendous attitudes, were great teammates, were very coachable and never quit. The Dream Team shot lights-out in both games and we just weren't able to overcome that, even though we played them a lot better in the championship. After talking with the girls after the last game, I know they are very excited for our season, and they have good reason to be."
Ashtyn Schieferecke is the team's only returning starter and is the chief inside threat. Hoffman and Wedel were the only seniors on the court and they have to provide leadership. Hoffman and Paige Schmidt will give MHS a nice 1-2 punch at the point and Schmidt also can play the off guard. Keep an eye on sophomores-to-be Yowell, Kamryn Collins and Morgan Howard. They could be to the girls what the Pyle-Gabel-Wine triumvirate was to the boys. Emma Ellet provide some relief inside, and remember, MHS was without three players who are expected to be in the regular rotation next year.
It seems like every time we think the Bullpups are going to rebuild, they win 15 or 16 games and move on to state.