For the second year in a row, a Four Rivers Conference father-son tandem are district champions.
Sullivan’s Dino and Cody McKinney accomplished the feat Friday, defeating Rolla, 48-38, for the Class 4 District 10 championship in Union.
The win comes as the first district championship for the school since 2003 and the first in Head Coach Dino McKinney’s career. He has been the head coach in Sullivan since the 2011-12 season.
In his seventh season with the Eagles, Dino captured the title for the first time and it comes during his son, Cody’s, senior year.
Last year, longtime Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer won his first district championship when the Indians, led by his son, then senior point guard Cameron VanLeer, defeated St. Francis Borgia Regional for the Class 4 District 6 championship, 50-43. That championship was also decided in Union.
“John got his last year and that was great,” Coach McKinney said. “This is my 16th year coaching in the area and we got to see Borgia win a bunch of them. Borgia gets moved out and we get another state-ranked team, Rolla, in our district, so we knew it would be tough. We battled all year long to be 22-6 and district champions.”
Cody, the team’s point guard and the 2018-19 Four Rivers Conference Player of the Year, has led the Eagles with 20.4 points per game this season.
“(Winning the district is) very exciting,” Cody said. “It’s the first one I’ve ever won and my dad too, so it’s a very exciting senior year.”
The Eagles trailed Rolla, 24-12, at the end of the first half Friday, but turned the tables and limited the Bulldogs to just 14 points in the second half.
As Sullivan gained momentum, Cody delivered a three-point shot at the end of the third quarter that cut the Rolla lead to two points, 30-28.
A three from senior guard Landon Hoffman put Sullivan ahead for the first time in the game midway through the fourth quarter.
Hoffman and Cody then had the most success at the free-throw line from that point forward to help the Eagles close out the win.
“Coach put in a nice game plan during the half and we just executed it,” Hoffman said.
Coach McKinney said he and his staff reminded the team they only had 16 minutes left to fight for the right to continue the season during the intermission.
“I could see a spark in the kids’ eyes when they came in for timeouts, even though we burned our timeouts really early,” Dino said. “The kids battled. ...I’m really proud of those kids. Coming back from down 14 is pretty tough.”
The victory came over a Rolla team that was ranked No. 10 in the state in Class 4 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association at the end of the regular season. The Bulldogs had been a fixture in that poll most of the year, if not the entire season.
“That was a great Rolla team we just beat right there,” Cody said. “They beat a lot of great teams during the season. I’m just so happy right now to come out on top.”
The Eagles completed their comeback just a couple of hours after Owensville’s girls also chipped away at a big Rolla lead in the other championship contest on the same floor before falling, 62-60, to the Lady Bulldogs.
“We were really rooting for Owensville to get the girls win too,” Dino said. “They really battled hard, but we were just happy to go out and get ours.”
Sullivan will next play Warrensburg (24-3) Tuesday in the Class 4 sectional round at Missouri S&T. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.