The Circle Thunderbirds coming off a long weekend at the Bluestem Classic in which they went 0-3 finishing 8th overall and falling to 1-12 on the season were a different team Tuesday night at home as they hosted the #3 KBCA ranked team in McPherson and came away with a 45-44 upset victory.
“It is probably one that no one saw coming. We were struggling especially last week, and the guys they have been down with how the season has progressed. Tonight they came out with an energy of forgetting the past and they came out and played some hard basketball,” said Circle head coach Jason Stucky.
Circle came out hard early but McPherson regained the lead in the waning moments of the first quarter and led 10-9 after 8 minutes of play.
The Thunderbirds were strong on the boards winning second and third chances on the offensive end and limiting the Bullpups chances on their defensive board.
Circle took a lead 25-19 outscoring the Bullpups 16-9 in the second quarter limiting a high-powered McPherson offense to just 19 points in the first half.
“We played well, but they missed a lot of shots that they normally make as well. They are coming off a huge week and are flying high, and we were coming off a low week, possibly one of the lowest and we came out with nothing to lose,” said Stucky.
McPherson was down but not out and starting the third quarter to the final horn the Bullpups pressed the Thunderbirds creating turnovers and harassing Circle into their front court.
The consistent pressure worked as the Bullpups outscored Circle 17-10 in the third to regain the lead at 36-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I told our kids that McPherson would go on a run in the second half and I thought the key was not giving McPherson the run-outs that they normally have,” said Stucky.
Both squads battled back and forth possession for possession without either team being able to pull away.
McPherson lost two of their big men in Keaton Sorenson and Peter Horton who fouled out with minutes remaining in the contest.
Circle senior Stewart Dennison who played much of the second half with 4 fouls was fouled on the offensive board with under a minute to go and stepped to the line with with a chance to give Circle the lead.
“I was just going out there to make them, trying not to let the pressure get to me and I made the first one. Thankfully that was what we needed,” said Stewart Dennison.
After missing the second free throw, McPherson rebounded and took the ball down for the final shot of the game. A three point attempt by Kyler Kinnamon for the win bounced off the front of the rim and after a scramble for the rebound the Bullpups regained possession with one second remaining on the clock.
Page 2 of 2 - On the inbound McPherson’s Marcus Houghton tried an alley-oop pass for a lay in but the pass was tipped and the shot never got off for the Bullpups.
“We have been close all year, we have just come up short and it was our time to get one,” said Dennison.
McPherson was led offensively by Kyler Kinnamon with 15 point and Marcus Houghton with 11 points, Ryan Horton and Keaton Sorenson had 5 points each.
The Thunderbirds were led by Stewart Dennison with 10 points, Garrett Cannon with 8 points, Kaden Kirkpatrick with 7 points, Jake Smith with 6 points, Dominic Lara with 5 points and Seth Blaha with 4 points.
“I have seen the potential in this team, and I know we can be good, even get to great status,” said an emotional Stucky after huge upset win.