SALINA — They don’t see defense in Southeast Kansas quite like the pressure the McPherson High boys brought Wednesday night.
The Bullpups strafed the Chanute Blue Comets with an unrelenting, suffocating, turnover-creating defense that led to a lopsided 66-31 first-round victory in the Class 4A Division I State Tournament at the steamy Bicentennial Center.
The defending state champion Bullpups forced 17 first-half turnovers that led MHS to an overwhelming 37-10 lead and coach Kurt Kinnamon was able to play his bench much of the second half.
MHS, now 23-0 and winners of 38 straight, will have a polar-opposite opponent at 8:15 p.m. Friday as it’s matched against 19-4 Bishop Miege, which was the No. 1-ranked team through the first half of the season. The Stags shut down Andale 50-34 in what many were calling the best first-round matchup of any team in any class.
“I’m going to credit our kids for a good job of pressuring and getting out and we were pretty alert,” Kinnamon said. “Honestly it would have been worse, but it was as poor a shooting game as we’ve had in a while.”
But a margin of 35 was more than enough, as the Bullpups shot 45 percent for the game (23 of 51) and were 4 of 13 from beyond the arc. They did fare well at the line, 16 of 22, but Kinnamon wasn’t that happy with the 15 turnovers, though some of that had to do with so many different combinations.
Chanute’s numbers were quite forgettable, making just 11 of 37 shots and turning it over 29 times.
Only Drew Pyle, who led the Bullpups with 18 points, played at least 20 of the game’s 32 minutes and he eclipsed that by only one.
It was a modest 15-8 game after a quarter, but MHS ramped it up in the second period by unfurling a 22-0 rip, keyed by the defense. Chanute scored the last basket of the half after the lead had reached 37-8.
“(The) Kids played hard. (I) Thought we looked nervous,” Kinnamon said. “I don’t know why you’d be nervous other than it’s a state-tournament game. It was pretty workman-like and we were able to rest some people.”
Pyle and Kyler Kinnamon are still under the weather, so having the extra day between games should help them.
Payton Stephens scored all 12 of his points in the first half and Spenser Wine made some nice inside moves to add 10. Kinnamon scored only six, but he led the team in rebounding with six, came up with four assists and four steals.
Derek Sharp led Chanute with 14, but was harassed into 10 turnovers while point guard Aaron Haviland was flummoxed by turning it over nine times.
Friday’s meeting with Miege will be the first between the teams since 2011 when the Bullpups rolled to a 58-39 victory, the kick-start to what would be their 11th state championship, the last as a 5A school. MHS would go on and defeat St. Thomas Aquinas and Kansas City Washington to earn the title.
In Friday’s other semi, it will be undefeated Basehor-Linwood and Ottawa. Basehor-Linwood won 65-40 over Wellington, while Ottawa was pushed much of the game by Fort Scott before emerging with a 53-44 triumph.
MHS (66) — McDaniel 1-3, 0-0, 2; Loecker 1-3, 0-2, 2; D. Pyle 6-13, 3-4, 18; B. Pyle 1-3, 0-0 3; Kinnamon 2-6, 2-2, 6; Stephens 5-8, 2-3, 12; Alexander 0-0, 4-4, 4; Wine 3-7, 4-4, 10; Nutter 4-7, 1-3, 9; Gabel 0-1, 0-0, 0. Totals — 23-51, 16-22, 66. 3-pointers — D. Pyle 3, B. Pyle 1.
Chanute (31) — Manbeck 1-3, 0-0, 2; Richards 1-4, 0-0, 2; Haviland 2-5, 2-2, 6; Lind 2-4, 0-0, 4; Sharp 4-13, 6-6, 14; Erikson 0-4, 0-0, 0; Senf 0-1, 0-0, 0; Cooper 1-3, 1-1, 3. Totals — 11-37, 9-9, 31. 3-pointers — None.