TOPEKA, Kan.—The only lopsided statistic in McPherson’s state championship win was the score. Both sides were evenly matched and it showed in the Bullpups’ 79-68 win. It was the school’s eleventh state championship victory in its history.
KC Washington led 16-14 after the first quarter, but that was the last time. Although McPherson led from the beginning of the second quarter until the end, McPherson head coach Kurt Kinnamon admitted it wasn’t the best McPherson had played this year, it was enough to win its first state championship since 2003.
“I think there was one possession where we had four chances at a basket, but just couldn’t one,” he said. “We rebounded well, which is what got us the win.”
Just as in every other game Christian Ulsaker and Jack Pyle have played together, when one was playing well, the other stepped up and took over for McPherson.
“We like to call ourselves the two-headed monster,” said Ulsaker of the duo. “We’ve been playing together since we were four.”
Pyle and Ulsaker combined for 56 of McPherson’s 79 points. Ulsaker finished with 30 to lead all players. Washington’s Myles Hibler led his team with 23 points and Tra’Vaughn White added 22 points in the loss.
McPherson played the type of game it has played all year−tough.
“Coach (Kinnamon) preaches fundamentals and just getting out there and being the toughter opponent,” said Ulsaker.
McPherson knew KC Washington was going to try to out-run McPherson, to turn this state championship into a track meet. To an extent, it succeeded, but McPherson again showed its versatility, as in the state semifinal when Ulsaker fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
“(Washington) missed some shots and I think we did a good job of rebounding and holding them to just one shot,” said Kinnamon. “We were able to keep their key players from getting into any rhythm and we took some charges early, which got them into some foul trouble.”
McPherson ends its championship season with a record of 24-1; its lone loss came at the hands of 6A state champion Wichita Heights in mid-January.
“Eleven in 2011 has a nice ring to it,” said Kinnamon.
The entirety of one side was a sea of red and white, McPherson’s colors. The crowd exploded any time the team would go on a run or make a defensive stop.
“This was basically a home game for us,” said Kinnamon. “I know the community supports this team. It will be a memory they will remember forever.”
St. Thomas Aquinas took third by defeating Lansing 40-34.
St. Thomas Aquinas girls take down BV Stilwell
It was a tight first quarter for the Lady Tigers and Lady Saints, but the Lady Saints showed why it was the top seed.
DaShawn Harden led the way for Aquinas with 20 points, the only player in double-digits for her team. Stilwell’s Aerial Smith finished with 10 points to lead her team.
Not only was it a tight first quarter for the title, it was a tight first half thanks to Smith’s half-court, buzzer-beating three-pointer to make the score 23-20 going into halftime. It was Stilwell’s only three-point basket of the game.
Aquinas got several early defensive stops and got some easy points under the baskets, allowing it to seemingly hit cruise control in the second half.
McPherson took down Shawnee Heights in the third place game 49-38.