Terrence Moore looked Conner Frankamp in the eyes. Frankamp didn’t look back, but he saw. He knew.
This was a test. Moore wasn’t ready to hand over his title as the City League’s most accomplished, well-rounded perimeter player. His Heights Falcons weren’t going to just let Frankamp and North take the game, either.
Frankamp didn’t look back at Moore, but he knew the implications and he wasn’t giving in. He overcame Moore’s relentless defense and North survived a passive final five minutes to beat Heights 47-38.
The Falcons have lost two in a row after a state-record 62-game winning streak. North hasn’t advanced to a state tournament in Frankamp’s two previous years, but Thursday’s win may have signaled an addition to the City League elite.
Frankamp scored 38 points and easily shook off Moore’s attempts to intimidate him. He also dominated on a major stage — the game was televised and Heights gym was to its 1,200 capacity. The doors closed at 5:50 p.m., ten minutes before the girls game, and hundreds were turned away.
"I think they do think they’re getting in my head," Frankamp said of opponents who try to get him rattled. "But I feed off that, for sure."
If Heights was going to win Thursday, Moore was going to be the catalyst. He tirelessly pursued Frankamp, nuzzling against him when other North players had the ball and quickly calculating how much room was too much for Frankamp when the North star had it.
On one possession late in the third quarter, Moore pushed against Frankamp and stared at him. Frankamp ignored him, but he beat him off the dribble and assisted a Sean Bernard basket. Two possessions later, Frankamp blew by Moore for a layup.
Moore was beaten. Temporarily. But his humility served as fuel for the final eight minutes.
"He’s a great player," Moore said. "It probably is some way that we can try to speed him up. He’s going to go on to KU and have a successful (career). There’s not really a way to get in his head, you just basically try to contain him."
Frankamp was the game’s most noticeable player through three quarters, but the fourth quarter was sure to bring on a different challenge. Heights does major damage in fourth quarters, a major reason why Frankamp had never beaten the Falcons.
But the decisive fourth-quarter player this time was Frankamp, who scored 12 points in the period fourth. Frankamp owned the second half after missing eight of his final 12 shots. He finished 11 of 21 and made five of his final six three-point attempts.
"I knew he’d get going," North coach Gary Squires said. "He was kind of leaning back (in his release) and a lot of his shots were in and out. Once he started feeling it, we started running more sets for him."
North didn’t make a basket during the final 5:31, when it led 42-34. During that stretch, the Redskins lengthened possessions by dribbling and passing around the perimeter. It was as if they were baiting Heights, whose athleticism caused North difficulties in keeping the ball.
The lead was cut to six points. Then four. But Heights lost momentum when Lorin Smith missed two free throws that could have made it 42-38. Frankamp made four free throws during the final 43 seconds.
Heights’ losses are somewhat alarming since they leave the Falcons with questions heading to the postseason, where they will defend their three straight Class 6A titles.
Heights played its fourth game in seven days, leaving its players fatigued. Moore’s tenacity was a late boost, but when he fouled out, no one replaced it. No Falcons player was a scoring threat, either; Perry Ellis scored 11, Moore six and Gavin Thurman three. North’s defense was executed to near perfection.
"It really shows you how amazing our run has been, because we’ve had two letdowns," Heights coach Joe Auer said. "Teams have challenged us to do some things that were out of our comfort zone, and we haven’t responded."