MHS boys playing at rarefied level

By Steve Sell
December 20, 2017

As I was sitting on press row at the McPherson High-Andover boys basketball game here Tuesday, I wondered what was going through the mind of Trojan assistant coach Ryan Herrs.

Herrs, MHS Class of 1992, was on the bench to get an up-close-and-personal view of the Bullpups’ 69-34 throttling of his Trojans.

I’m sure it brought back memories of 1991 when Herrs was a standout for what I still believe to be the most gifted Bullpup team I have ever covered. That MHS team literally destroyed everything in its path, the only blip a double-overtime loss early in the season against Hutchinson at the Sports Arena.

That team also included future KCAC stars Jonathan Coachman (McPherson College) and Bryan Vincent (Tabor), as well as Brian Henson, who would start his career at Kansas State and complete it at Washburn. Rounding out the lineup was Jason Totman, who would have a tremendous baseball career at Texas Tech and later play in the San Diego Padres organization, but during his high school days was a prolific 3-point shooter.

Herrs himself went on to play four years at Wichita State and was one of the most versatile Bullpup big men in school history with his ability to power the ball inside, yet stroke the 3-ball with proficiency.

I talked with him briefly before the game, but missed out on seeing him after the game. I would have liked to have heard his thoughts on this current Bullpup team.

There won’t be an undefeated season, since the Bullpups lost a 2-point game at No. 1-ranked Bishop Miege earlier this month. I still contend the Bullpups were the better team that night, leading much of the way, including an 8-point margin in the second half.

The Bullpups certainly will get plenty of challenges the rest of the regular season, especially with next month’s McPherson Invitational. It’s loaded with Class 6A powers, including Lawrence Free State, a team touted by many to be the best in the class.

The way the Bullpups have played since the loss to Miege has been jaw-dropping. They seemingly have used that defeat as motivation as they have decimated Abilene, Winfield and Andover since then.

Given the level they are playing at, the Bullpups probably wish they could have played Buhler before breaking for the holiday instead of Jan. 2. The Crusaders have lost a couple of games that I didn’t expect, but they’re very capable and, of course, in a rivalry game you never know how emotion will play into it.

At home, the Bullpups have been beyond fantastic. They hammered a good Derby team, then had running-clock games against Winfield and Andover.

What I liked about the Andover game was the defense. This was a Trojan team that had scored 86 points in a game and came in averging 68. Maybe that was the challenge the Bullpups needed as they were in lockdown mode from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

I really like how effective MHS’ trapping defense is. Coach Kurt Kinnamon is taking advantage of the Bullpups’ considerable length to create havoc and this year’s team is so much more athletic than last year’s. You need only the eyeball test to see what another year has done for this team in terms of physicality.

The Big 3 of Ben Pyle, Mason Alexander and Jake Alexander have been better than advertised, averaging a combined 55 points a game. Thomas Diggs and Drew Labertew are the quintessential role players, doing their jobs with aplomb, with Jayse Alexander the high-energy sixth man that every team needs to have. 

Cody Stufflebean is developing into a force off the bench and Aren Trost has a chance to be another one. Jace Kinnamon, Kyler Hoppes, Gabe Hoover, Max Alexander and Cooper Courtney bring energy off the bench and they’re getting a lot of minutes since most of the games have been blowouts.

This has a chance to be one of the more special teams in MHS history. Of course, teams are remembered for winning state championships, but this team certainly has the makeup to be one.