McPherson High boys coach Kurt Kinnamon said the Chanute Blue Comets appear to be a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde basketball team.
Perhaps that’s one reason they come into their Class 4A Division I State Tournament opener Wednesday with an 11-11 record, which pales in comparison to the defending champs’ 22-0 mark.
“Chanute looks like two different teams on film,” said Kinnamon, whose Bullpups take on the Southeast Kansas League school at 6:30 p.m. at Salina’s Bicentennial Center. “One team is really good and the other didn't play as well.”
The Blue Comets, who were finally healthy after being beset by injuries during the regular season, sent shockwaves throughout 4A D-I when they upset then 20-0 Independence in their sub-state opener on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Kyler Manbeck, then unloaded for 37 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Labette County 76-61 in the championship game. In that game, the Blue Comets were 25 of 27 at the line in the final period.
“They have a 6-3 kid that plays inside-outside that is a matchup problem,” said Kinnamon, 402-70 in his 20 years at MHS with five state titles. “Their guards are penetrate-and-kick type guys who do a good job of finding the open man. They have shown both man and zone, but I would anticipate they will zone us. We have to be able to get the ball inside against their zone, which I think we can do as well as our bigs pass.”
The Bullpups have faced a ton of zone this season, so they’re getting quite familiar of how to attack it. The key Saturday in the 57-46 sub-state title game victory was the play of Payton Stephens, who scored 15 points and was very active in getting to the basket.
The Chanute player to watch is guard Derek Sharp, who scores 17 points a game. He's one of three double-figure scorers as guard Aaron Havlland and center Trey Lind average 12 points apiece.
Drew Pyle and Stephens have both averaged 16 points a game and All-State All-Class Kyler Kinnamon averages 12, along with nearly seven assists and four steals. Nathan Nutter and Spenser Wine provide help on the boards and both are capable of putting up good offensive numbers when opposing defenses try to stop the double-digit troika.
Should the Bullpups win, they would play at 8:15 p.m. Friday against either Andale or Miege, which not only is the top game of the day, but maybe of the entire state tournament schedule on Wednesday. Andale gave the Bullpups their closest game of the year (57-55), while Miege was ranked No. 1 the first half of the season before the Bullpups took over.
“Andale-Miege is a complete tossup,” Kinnamon said.
On the other side of the bracket, though, he believes Basehor-Linwood will be all over Wellington and Ottawa will do likewise to Fort Scott.