SALINA – When Peter Horton committed his fifth foul Saturday near the end of the Class 4A-Division I boys championship game, his path to the bench went through McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon.
It can be challenging real estate to navigate at times, with Kinnamon’s high expectations frequently relayed through a booming voice.
But on this occasion, there was nothing but smiles. Horton, a 6-foot-4 senior, had provided stout interior defense on Topeka Hayden center Marcus Meier. And with sophomore Andrew Pyle chipping in four three-pointers and 21 points, McPherson rolled over Hayden 57-40 for its 12th boys state title.
“This one, because of the quality of individuals that these guys are, I really wanted it badly for them,” said Kinnamon, who won his fifth title with the Bullpups. “It makes me emotional when good things happen to good kids.”
McPherson (24-1), which had plenty of tense moments in a 59-56 overtime victory over Paola in Friday’s semifinals, minimized the drama with its performance on Saturday. The Bullpups led by two points early in the second quarter when Pyle, a 6-2 guard, scored nine consecutive points on three-point shots to give McPherson a 20-9 advantage.
“I knew I had to have a good game today,” said Pyle, who scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting in McPherson’s first two tournament games. “My teammates helped me out a lot.”
Hayden, trying to win its eighth state title, struggled to get its offense on track. The Wildcats shot 38 percent from the field and made 2 of 17 three-point attempts.
Guard Jacob Head led Hayden (14-11) with 16 points, but hit just 6 of 16 field goals. Meier finished with 13, but the Bullpups’ pressure on the perimeter made it challenging for Hayden to get the ball to him.
“I thought our defensive effort was just fantastic,” Kinnamon said. “It’s not easy to play that way. … I thought Pete just did a fantastic job battling Marcus Meier, and then we had such good help-side (defense).”
McPherson’s defense – and offense -- never allowed Hayden any momentum. After Head hit a three to cut the Bullpups’ lead to 41-31 with 5:48 to play, Hayden coach Ted Schuler called timeout to set up full-court pressure.
The Bullpups greeted it with a long pass to Kyler Kinnamon for an uncontested layup.
“We had tired legs,” Schuler said. “We put a lot of effort into Thursday and Friday’s games – not that they didn’t – but we put a lot of effort into those games just to get this opportunity. We just lost to a very good Mac team.”
Paola 72, El Dorado 57 – Through 2½ quarters, the biggest lead either Paola or El Dorado could build was five points as the teams traded the advantage 12 times in the third-place game.
But Paola seized momentum with full-court pressure that yielded a 9-0 run and a 49-39 lead.
“We just kind of got sped up there,” said El Dorado guard Travis House, who scored a game-high 24 points. “They were making shots and we weren’t, and that just kind of got our heads down. They rode the momentum.”
The Wildcats couldn’t get the deficit below eight points the rest of the way. With Paola shooting 63 percent from the field in the second half, El Dorado’s season finished with two losses and a 14-11 record.
Alec Hildreth had 22 points for El Dorado, which shot 56 percent from the field (20 of 36) but committed 19 turnovers.