The new Southeast gymnasium has been christened.
Israel Barnes made sure of that, driving baseline, and leaping over a defender for a highlight dunk that sent the large crowd into a frenzy on the opening night of the high school basketball season.
It was part of a 35-point season debut for Barnes, a highly-touted junior forward, as the Buffaloes defeated South 71-65 on Thursday night.
“All of Wichita came out to see us play and break out the new gym,” Barnes said. “We had to put on a show.”
Barnes was an All-Metro selection last season, averaging 19.2 points, and did so playing alongside Jerrick Harding, also an All-Metro pick who averaged 28 points.
With Harding graduated, Barnes gave a preview of what might be in store this season with his performance on Thursday.
He never left the court and was always the vocal point of Southeast’s offense. He took smaller defenders down low and used his size (6-foot-4) to bully them for buckets. He took bigger defenders off the drible from the perimeter and showed a liking for pull-up jumpers from 15 feet out, but also the ability to drain three’s.
It was a complete offensive performance.
“That’s what great players do,” Southeast coach Melvin Herring said. “And Israel is a player.”
Barnes’ performance overshadowed a larger question facing Southeast this season: how would the two freshmen — Michah Jaques and Shawn Warrior — hold up under the pressure of starting in the City League?
If Thursday was an indicator, then Jaques and Warrior will be just fine: the duo combined for 18 points and each flashed their potential in crucial stretches in the fourth quarter.
“That was my big concern coming into tonight,” Herring said. “Coming from middle school basketball straight into the big stage, how would they be able to handle it? I thought they stepped up and took on the responsibility and handled it really well.”
“They played really big,” Barnes added. “You wouldn’t expect freshmen to do that.”
Southeast scored the opening points six seconds into the game and never trailed after, thanks to a quick offensive start from Barnes that ended with 19 points in the first half.
South, which was led by 19 points from Jariah Taylor, rallied to cut the lead to 60-59 with 4:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, but its offense fizzled out in the final four minutes and struggled to stop Southeast.
The gymnasium was buzzing after the victory, the first for Southeast, as the crowd was still talking about that jam from Barnes.
He promises it’s the first of many coming in the new gym.
“I just wanted to get up,” Barnes said. “God blessed me with the bounce, so I just did it.”
South 14 18 15 18 -- 65
Southeast 20 20 12 19 -- 71
SOUTH: Taylor 19, Tate 6, Papamie 8, Manning 15, Scott 2, Cunningham 6, Silmon 2, Lemovou 5.
SOUTHEAST: Barnes 35, Jaques 12, Williams 4, Murdock 8, Warrior 6, Loggins 2, Adkins 4.