Sports Editor Peter Holland Jr.
The last thing a team wants is to lose in the first round and fall in the losing side of the bracket. Right from the jump, the McPherson High School boys basketball team will be tested in the first round of the 56th annual McPherson invitational, which will begin on Thursday.
“For 25 years I tried to get across the point that if you don’t get that first game in the tournament, you struggle. Every year, we come out and it’s one of our lesser crowd,” Head Coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “I can’t stress it enough the importance of the home-court advantage and hopefully, we see a bunch of them on Thursday night.”
The Bullpups, who are 6-3 this season, hold the No. 4 seed in the MIT bracket and will take on fifth seed Blue Valley High School in the first round at 8:15 p.m. Kinnamon sees it as a major challenged for his boys and hopes the home-court advantage could factor in the game.
The teams that are coming in are no joke,” Kinnamon said. “It’s not going to be one of those blow-out type games. We’ll be happy to get out with a one-point win and we need all our Bullpup fans to help get there.”
Blue Valley is entering the tournament 5-4 on the season. The Tigers are led by Aidan Shaw, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who has drawn interest from division-one schools. He has already been offered by Iowa, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and TCU. Shaw averages 14.6 points a game and 7.4 rebounds a game. The Tigers, known for being a threat behind the three-point line, have shooters that can put up double figures every night. Other players that could be a threat are Miles Blandi ( 13.8 ppg), Hayden Young (12.6 ppg) and Dylan Wipperman (6.2 ppg). McPherson will not be only the one to have a player that will be future Wildcat. Dorian Stephens is a junior who has committed to play football at Kansas State University where he will be joining Cody Stufflebean in 2021.
Winner of Thursday’s matchup will advance in the next round where they will face the winner of the Bishop Carroll-Wichita North game on Friday.
Others team in the McPherson Invitational
The McPherson Invitational is highly respected all over the state. Some of the head coaches that were in the tournament had nothing but positive views about the McPherson community.
“For one, the town of McPherson loves basketball, and there is a level of reverence for this tournament that is rare. The fans are knowledgeable and come out for more than just the Mac games,” Brett Flory, head coach of Derby High School said. “I remember in particular in 2014 we brought an undersized but scrappy team to the tournament. We won our first game in double-OT against a much bigger Blue Valley West team, and many McPherson fans gave the teams a standing ovation for the effort. That was pretty cool.”
Four out of the eight teams are ranked in the top 10 in the KBCA poll. Bishop Carroll (9-0) might be the team the beat as the Golden Eagles are the top seed in the tournament. Derby and Lawrence Free State are both ranked in the top in the Class 6A standings. Junction City High School is entering the tournament with a 3-3 record, while Topeka Seaman High School and Wichita North High School are winless this season.