TOPEKA — With all the pageantry set up today to celebrate Kansas' 100th anniversary of state championships, it seemed fitting for McPherson to play for another Class 5A title.
The Bullpups are in their 40th appearance in the state tournament since 1941 — the most of any school at any level — and will go for their 11th title today after a 58-45 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday afternoon at the Expocentre.
McPherson will face Kansas City Washington in the title game at 6:15 tonight.
"The chance to play for the title in the 100th year is kind of a storybook thing," McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon said.
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It was the usual one-two scoring punch of Jack Pyle and Christian Ulsaker that got it done for the Bullpups. The duo combined for 37 points, and Pyle scored 16 of his 22 points at the free-throw line.
"It's like carrying on the tradition," Pyle said. "McPherson has always been good. Now all the former players are coming back that won state titles and we get the chance to carry on the tradition in front of them."
This year's McPherson squad, which improved to 23-1, has become special because other players have accepted lesser scoring roles. It's a thankless job, but Kinnamon credits the work of Cory Horton, Jordan Hart, Parker Hambley and Travell Robinson just as much as Pyle and Ulsaker.
"It can get really difficult when you have two guys that dominate the scoring like they do," Kinnamon said. "It would be easy for other kids to be jealous of that. We don't have that and the kids are willing to play their roles."
The Saints' slow-it-down methods provided a speed bump for McPherson in the first half. But the Bullpups out-scored them 15-7 in the third quarter to take a 38-27 lead and never faltered.
"I asked them at halftime, 'How bad do you want to play against these guys from behind?' " Kinnamon said. "They spread the floor so well, it would have been a nightmare."
Now McPherson will be playing for another opportunity to raise a banner. That meant little to Washington, despite it being a polar opposite having never won a state title.
But that didn't keep the Wildcats (22-2) from talking to anyone who would listen.
"We gonna shock the world tomorrow!" Washington coach Eric King proclaimed afterwards.
"It's going to be a war," King said. "For real."