Bishop Miege junior Semaj Ray hasn’t forgotten the frustration that swallowed the Stags’ basketball program two seasons ago when it won five games.
A victory on Saturday helped to eradicate that memory as Miege defeated McPherson 69-59 in the Kansas Class 4A Division I state title game. The victory gave Miege a 22-3 record.
“Two years ago was really awful,” said Ray, who scored 10 points. “... This is an amazing moment right now.”
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Miege coach Rick Zych, who was coaching in Missouri two seasons ago, said he’s pleased with the Stags’ strides.
“I told them before the game that we played 50 games together since I came back,” Zych said. “We’re building a tradition and …. It’s been a great journey.”
It wasn’t until the final quarter, though, that Miege took control of the title game.
Marcus McDaniel hit a three-pointer that gave McPherson a 52-51 lead at the end of the third quarter.
McPherson senior Drew Pyle made two free throws a minute into the fourth quarter for a 54-51 lead. Fifteen seconds later, Miege sophomore Bol Bol hit the team’s only three-pointer to tie the score.
On McPherson’s ensuing possession, Bol blocked a shot and then scored inside. He finished with 14 points.
“I thought the three that Bol hit was big because he hadn’t made one all night, and then he got a little finger roll,” said McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon, whose team finished 23-2.
McPherson’ Ben Pyle and Drew Pyle were a force. Drew Pyle finished with 22 points and Ben Pyle scored 23 points.
The difference, though, was Zych’s decision to go to a triangle-and-two defense.
“They have two good players, and we couldn’t stop them,” Zych said. “We play it a lot.”
Ray was one of the key defenders, and his job was to faceguard Ben Pyle. Zych also used Landry Weber and Dawson Downing on Drew Pyle.
“When they guard you that well, it’s really hard mentally and physically because you have to run around for the ball,” Pyle said. “If you actually get an open shot and you miss it, you get, kind of, a little upset.”
The victory was special because Miege lost junior forward Francesco Badocchi — who Zych calls Miege’s best offensive player — to an injury on Friday. Joe Gleason stepped in with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 16 points.