Derby’s 10 to 12 player lineup lends itself to a diverse and versatile offense.
However, through two of its three games at the McPherson Invitational Tournament, it saw a blossoming senior take charge in its 70-61 third-place win over Blue Valley (6-6).
Derby’s Nick Bonner scored a career and game-high 27 points and was joined in double figures by Tre Washington and Jacob Karsak with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“He was the best player on the court today along with some other really good players,” coach Brett Flory said. “He’s just so tough… he’s put in a lot of work and deserves to have success.”
Bonner scored 11 of Derby’s 17 points, helping build a 13-point lead after five minutes of play.
While the senior is capable from beyond the 3-point arc, he decimated the Blue Valley defense by crashing the offensive glass and scoring off of numerous put backs.
“When they were in that 1-3-1, they weren’t looking for me [on the glass],” Bonner said. “It’s easy rebounds and put backs.”
Even with an undersized lineup, Derby out-rebounded Blue Valley 19-15 through the first half.
Bonner’s boost was especially felt on Saturday, scoring 16 first-half points and shooting 6-of-9 from the field. The rest of the team was 6-of-22 over the first two quarters.
“My confidence is high, not going to lie,” Bonner said. “I just want to help the team get better though.”
After seeing second-half slumps rule losses to Andover and Lawrence Free State, the Panthers were able to answer each Tiger push.
Karsak hit two 3s in the third quarter and junior Blake Chadwick’s trey gave Derby a 48-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
A 9-0 Blue Valley run cut Derby’s lead to 53-50 with 5:15 left, but the margin was as close as it would come over the final eight minutes.
“Playing good teams is a grind and before the game, we talked about being able to [fight through] those runs,” Flory said. “It’s how games in March against good teams go. More games against teams like this will show how prepared you are for moments like that.”
Blue Valley sophomore Aidan Shaw, who scored a team-high 19 points, saw a tip attempt to its perimeter severely backfire with 1:13 remaining.
Derby senior Tre Washington beat his defender to the rim to give Derby a 64-59 lead, opening the door to six-straight free throws and the win.
Derby can't find second-half offense in MIT semifinals
One could point a finger at a total script change offensively, but Derby (7-3) saw arguably its biggest weakness exploited in the McPherson Invitational Tournament semifinals.
A 35-31 Derby halftime lead fell quickly as Lawrence Free State went into cruise control with its half-court offense, finishing off a 67-51 win.
Miles Branch (6-foot-6), Andrew Piper (6-foot-3) and DK Middleton (6-foot-3) controlled the paint as it finished the game 19-of-28 inside the 3-point line.
Middleton scored a game-high 22 points, while Derby was led by 11 points from sophomore Amari Thomas.
“We have to get more efficient against big, strong teams in the half court,” coach Brett Flory said. “It’s hard to score against them because they’re just so long. Their point guard would be the tallest guy on our team.”
Derby did shoot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
Thomas scored nine of his 11 in the first half, helping Derby build its biggest lead of 35-27 with 1:08 remaining in the first half.
However, its offensive went quiet in the final two periods.
“We were in a position where we could have potentially been up double digits,” Flory said. “Before halftime, we did a couple of silly things and it was cut to four. They’re a great team and they played well in the second half.”
Three reach double figures as Derby smashes Topeka Seaman
Senior Nick Bonner scored 20 points and was joined by teammates Isaac Ray (13) and Jacob Karsak (12) in double figures in Derby's 77-58 over Topeka Seaman.
The Panthers set a new program record in 3-point shooting, hitting 15-of-31 in the game. It also tied a McPherson Invitational Tournament record that was set by Maize in 2017.
Consolation Finals vs. Blue Valley (Jan. 25)
DERBY: 20 12 16 22— 70
BLUE VALLEY: 8 18 14 21—61
PANTHERS: Bonner 27, Washington 13, Karsak 12, Ray 8, Chadwick 5, Adler 3, L. Clemons 2.
TIGERS: Shaw 19, Blandi 16, Young 10, Hill 5, Wipperman 4, Stephens 4, Demo 3.
Semifinals vs. Lawrence Free State (Jan. 24)
LAWRENCE FS: 12 19 17 19— 67
DERBY: 12 23 7 9— 51
FIREBIRDS: Middleton 22, Yoder 12, Piper 12, Branch 11, Downing 6, Durland 4.
PANTHERS: Thomas 11, Bonner 8, Ray 6, Washington 6, Karsak 6, Adler 5, Barger 4, J. Clemons 3, Chadwick 2.
Quarterfinals vs. Topeka Seaman (Jan. 23)
T. SEAMAN: 13 9 20 16— 58
DERBY: 23 18 18 18— 77
VIKINGS: Bonne 13, Kobuszewski 12, Brewer 9, Patterson Jr. 8, Zeferjahn 5, Foster 4, Cowan 4, Finley 3.
PANTHERS: Bonner 20, Ray 13, Karsak 12, Adler 8, Chadwick 5, J. Clemons 4, Washington 3, Araujo 2, Barger 2, Thomas 2.
MCPHERSON INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE & RESULTS (Jan. 23-25)
Thursday, January 23
Bishop Carroll 70, Wichita North 43
Blue Valley 64, McPherson 58
Derby 77, Topeka Seaman 58
Lawrence Free State 53, Junction City 38
Friday, January 24
SEMIFINALS: Lawrence Free State 67, Derby 51
SEMIFINALS: Bishop Carroll vs. Blue Valley
Junction City 67, Topeka Seaman 62 (OT)
McPherson 67, Wichita North 48
Saturday, January 25
7TH PLACE: Wichita North 64, Topeka Seaman 60
5TH PLACE: McPherson 44, Junction City 31
3RD PLACE: Derby 70, Blue Valley 61
CHAMPIONSHIP: Bishop Carroll vs. Lawrence Free State