The aftermath of a loss in the state championship game can be only slightly more enjoyable than the loss itself.
Following Bishop Miege’s 67-53 win over McPherson in the 4A-Division I boys title game, McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon stood emotionless while some of his players tried to force smiles behind the second-place trophy.
Kinnamon moved on to interviews and the inevitable, “Good season, Coach” greetings from the hometown fans.
“I was a little bit irritated, maybe, with … ,” Kinnamon said before an eight-second pause. “I was just a little irritated.
“When kids invest, I’m proud of that, but it hurts. To see your kids hurt and to have to watch others celebrate, that’s part of it. But you need to be stoic about that and let them enjoy their time, because they earned that. But it’s not fun and it’s not easy. Maybe that’s why I’m stoic.”
McPherson (20-5) lost to Miege (22-3) for the second time this season and for the second time in two years in the title game. This time was far more competitive than Miege’s 33-point victory on Dec. 9.
McPherson erased an eight-point first-quarter deficit to take a 29-28 halftime lead behind six first-half three-pointers and success limiting its matchup disadvantages, which proved fleeting.
Miege made 9 of 10 shots in the first quarter but McPherson forced a more deliberate second-quarter tempo that helped the Bullpups make 6 of 8 shots and hold off Miege’s superior size.
“We learned that we can’t play as fast as them,” said McPherson junior Ben Pyle, who scored 25 points. “They’re going to beat us up the floor. We’ve got to get back, and it just didn’t happen tonight. We had some letdowns.”
Pyle and Mason Alexander were often on hand to stop Miege’s scoring runs, but those runs became more frequent and more decisive in the second half.
Miege scored the first eight points of the third quarter, than had six in a row later in the quarter to stretch a three-point lead to 46-37.
Jeremiah Robinson and Francesco Badocchi were often in the middle of those game-changing moments. Robinson scored 16 points, Badocchi added 21 and they combined for 21 rebounds.
The 6-foot-8 Robinson and the 6-6 Badocchi made 13 of 19 shots, right in line with Miege’s 23 of 32 showing. Miege also had a 26-11 rebounding advantage.
“You lost 26 to 11 on the boards, you’re going to struggle,” Kinnamon said. “With their length, they were able to get some offensive rebounds. It didn’t matter if we had them boxed out or not, they were just able to go up and over us.”
McPherson cut the deficit to five in the fourth quarter but Miege scored 14 of the final 19 points.
“It’s a great traditional game, great environment,” Miege coach Rick Zych said. “We’re just happy to win.”