For a quarter, the demons of Wichita North apparently were still filling the heads of the McPherson High boys.
A prohibitive favorite in their McPherson Invitational opener against the one-win Hutchinson Salthawks on Thursday, the Bullpups showed some nerves in finding themselves tied at 11-all after 8 minutes.
Of course, the Roundhouse crowd began harkening back to last year when Wichita North shocked MHS in the first round, the only loss the Bullpups suffered during their state championship season.
But MHS exorcised those demons with a 20-3 second quarter and that kicked-started the Bullpups to a harder-than-expected 56-43 victory.
"I think we started out and looked nervous, looked timid," said MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon, whose team played without the high-energy Nathan Nutter as he was held out because of illness though he sat on the bench. "Of course I guess that's the ghost of Wichita North."
MHS, now 10-0, advances to play uber-impressive Wichita Heights in Friday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinals. The Bullpups have won 20 Invitational titles and Heights is second with nine, including seven in a row during the Darnell Valentine and Antoine Carr days.
Hutchinson came out in a zone and the Bullpups struggled early to make shots, but finally started to solve the puzzle and while it wasn't the blowout that had been anticipated, the Bullpups erased last year's memory.
"Hutch did a really good job. They had all of our zone sets very well scouted," Kinnamon said. "We weren't able to throw our lob against them, we weren't able to throw a couple of our KU plays."
Providing a spark off the bench was Jacob Loecker, who finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
"He did a good job. He did a really good job," Kinnamon said. "Pleased, because he gave us something we needed tonight."
Payton Stephens had a double-double for the Bullpups with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Kyler Kinnamon equaled Loecker with 11 points. MHS made just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc and was only 22 of 51 overall, well off its normal standards.
There was a brief dust-up late in the game when Stephens was intentionally fouled, which led to the two coaches, Kinnamon and Nathan Henry, exchanging heated verbal volleys.
"It's one of those emotion plays… coach Henry and I are fine. I think he's a good guy and I think he feels the same," Kinnamon said. "We were both a little out of line there… it goes back that you have to stick up for your guys. It's over and done with. We're good with each other and regrettable that both of us probably reacted the way we did."
Turner Wintz led Hutch with 13 points, while Trent Webster scored 11 and grabbed the same number of rebounds.
Heights is going to be a handful for MHS as the Falcons played outstanding in routing Maize by 25 points.
'The quickness does bother me from the standpoint that they're going to put their head down and drive it on you and make you try to keep them in front of you and we're going to have to do a great job of moving our feet," Kinnamon said.
MHS (56) — McDaniel 0-2, 0-0, 0; Loecker 5-6, 1-2, 11; D. Pyle 2-12, 3-4, 7; B. Pyle 1-3, 0-0, 3; Kinnamon 5-14, 0-0, 11; Stephens 5-9, 4-5, 14; Wine 3-3, 2-4, 8; Gabel 1-2, 0-0, 2. Totals — 22-51, 10-15, 56. 3-pointers — B. Pyle 1, Kinnamon 1.
Hutchinson (43) — Howard 0-2, 1-2, 1; Webster 4-12, 1-1, 11; Richards 1-2, 0-0, 2; Fee 1-1, 1-2, 3; Wintz 4-13, 4-5, 13; Middleton 1-1, 1-6, 3; Stoecklien 2-5, 1-1, 6; Faucett 0-1, 2-2, 2; Maldonado 1-1, 0-0, 2. Totals — 14-38, 11-19, 43. 3-pointers — Webster 2, Wintz 1, Stoecklein 1.