By JIM MISUNAS
ST. JOHN — The St. John Tigers are halfway home to a Class 2A state basketball championship repeat. The No. 1 ranked Tigers (23-0) meet Ellis at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Ellis (18-5) plays a fast-paced style with two losses to Class 4A state qualifier Thomas More Prep. Six-foot-5 Brendon Brenner averages 20 points and Eli Lohrmeyer averages 13 ppg.
“Our kids are excited to get back to the state tournament,” said St. John coach Clint Kinnamon. “For most of them, this is their third time to state. State can be a difficult stage to handle. We hope to use that to our advantage.”
Kansas State signee Dean Wade was dominant for the Tigers, who worked hard to beat Berean Academy 67-42 in the Class 2A substate finals after a tight first half.
Coach Kinnamon said the 6-foot-9 Wade is confident heading back to his future collegiate home at Kansas State University. Wade is averaging 25 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks per game while playing 20 minutes a game.
Kinnamon likes to say that he’s got Dean Wade and your team doesn’t. Aside from an occasional slam dunk, Wade does his work quietly and efficiently.
“Dean does whatever it takes to win,” Kinnamon said. “I know he’ll go out and play his game. Our guys like to go out and compete. We’ve played our best when we’re loose and having fun playing basketball.”
Cole Kinnamon averages 13 ppg while Jacob Milton, Gera Calleros, Jorge Calleros and Tate Fisher take turns sparking the Tigers.
“All I tell our guys is to be aggressive on offense,” Kinnamon said. “On Saturday, it was Alexis Valenzeula who picked us up.”
The disciplined Berean pushed the Tigers with accurate shooting and one first-half turnover.
“They hit some shots and made one turnover, but we were able to chase them off the 3-point line and force them into 13 turnovers in the second half,” Kinnamon said.
Moundridge coach Vance Unrau, who coached the Wildcats to four consecutive state titles, threw a box-and-one against point guard Cole Kinnamon to disrupt the Tigers. The Wildcats also shortened the game by being patient.
The Tigers outscore teams 70 to 30 and only rival Central Plains has scored more than 50 points in a 59-57 loss at Claflin. No team has bettered 42 points in the past seven games.
“We’ve been really happy with our defensive game,” Kinnamon said. “Playing teams like Berean and Moundridge was good. We did things to get them out of their delay games.”
Kinnamon said Olpe is a tournament-tested team. South Gray’s Mark Applegate has coached a state championship team, led by guards Tate Skinner and Carson Skidmore. Kinnamon believes the other finalist should come down to Olpe or Central Plains.
CLASS 2A BOYS
3 p.m.—Olpe 23-0 vs, Pittsburg Colgan 14-7
4:45 p.m.—Central Plains 20-3 vs. Jackson Heights 21-2
6:30 p.m.—St. John 23-0 vs. Ellis 18-5
8:15 p.m.—South Gray 22-1 vs. Washington County 20-3