Joe Auer calls senior guard Terrence Moore a “no-yes” player.
“He does something and you’re getting ready to complain,’’ the Heights basketball coach said. “And then he makes a play.’’
Auer said the one or two hidden gray hairs on his head are probably the result of coaching Moore the past three seasons. But so are, in part, the three state championships Heights has won. And the Falcons are still alive for a fourth in a row after beating Olathe East 52-31 in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A tournament at Koch Arena on Thursday night.
Heights, as you may have heard, is Perry Ellis’ team. But there are some major supporting roles to be played and the 6-foot Moore has one of them.
He’s the point man on Heights’ full-court press. He usually guards the opponent’s most dangerous perimeter player. He plays on a tight wire and falls off more than Auer would like him to. But he always dusts himself off and goes right back into the danger zone.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and sometimes you just have to let him go,’’ Auer said. “He makes far more plays than he makes mistakes for us.’’
Both can be spectacular.
Moore has the energy of a group of second graders at recess and he plays with the same enthusiasm.
Basketball is supposed to be fun, after all. And that’s never lost on Moore.
“I like to do what I can,’’ said Moore, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half, when Heights’ offense was at times sluggish. “Coach Auer, he lets his players play. This is a players game and tonight we went out there and made plays.’’
It wasn’t an easy game, despite the lopsided score. Olathe East packed in a zone to attempt to slow down Ellis. Possessions were tedious and tough. A couple of seasons ago, Moore would have had difficulty maintaining his patience.
But Thursday night, he didn’t try to do too much.
“Different teams run different styles of offense and defense,” he said. “But a great team knows how to adjust to those different things. Every win you can get in the postseason is really good. I’m glad our team came through tonight.”
On a night when one of Heights’ Big 3, forward Gavin Thurman, played poorly offensively (2 of 12 shooting, four points), Moore and Ellis were outstanding.
The 6-8 Ellis, who at times during his great career has been reluctant to take over games, showed no such resistance against Olathe East. He scored 22 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, when Heights scored only 26 as a team.
One of his baskets came on a dunk after a perfect alley-oop pass from Moore. The two had failed to connect on such a play earlier in the game.
“We’ve played together enough that we just make eye contact and know what each other is doing,’’ Ellis said. “Terrence and I have great chemistry.’’
Moore, who at times can be shooting challenged, opened the game with a three-pointer on one of his patented high-arching, in-the-air-forever shots from the corner. He made another three-pointer later and contributed like he usually does with rebounds, assists, steals and defense.
When Olathe East’s best shooter, Kyle Smith, opened the second half by making a pair of threes, Moore got into a defensive stance and cut off everything else Smith tried to do.
“Terrence really gets us going,’’ Ellis said. “He gets out and runs and he just makes us play harder. That’s big for us. And if he does make a mistake, he makes up for it.’’
Auer seemed to get frustrated with Moore only a couple of times Thursday. No big deal. He knows one of the reasons the Falcons keep winning championship trophies is because of Moore’s unrelenting style.
“I thought he really set the tempo for us tonight,’’ Auer said after Thursday’s victory, which improved the Falcons to 21-2. “We turned him loose and he hit his first shot, caused a lot of turnovers and did a great job on their shooter. He’s made a career out of games like this. He’s just a fearless competitor.’’
Heights will need every bit of everything it has in tonight’s 8:15 semifinal game against Blue Valley North, which easily handled Wichita North and Conner Frankamp 76-49 on Thursday night.
It will be one of Heights’ biggest challenges during the state championship streak. BV North has a bunch of guys who can score and rebound. The Mustangs were the most impressive of Thursday’s quarterfinal winners.
Heights, though, has never backed away from a challenge. And Moore is the perfect kind of player to step into any fire.
“He’s not afraid to make a mistake,’’ Auer said. “He doesn’t beat himself up because he has a really good short-term memory. He puts his mistakes in the rear-view mirror very quickly. If you’re going to play the way he plays, you better have that kind of mentality.’’