Heights coach Joe Auer identified the Falcons’ most glaring problem – maybe its only problem – last week when he noted their lack of scoring punch following a second straight loss.
Thursday, Chris Lowe solved it.
Lowe scored 20 points and helped Heights pull away in the second half of its 68-43 win over Maize in the first round of the McPherson Invitational. Lowe made 8 of 15 shots and followed his team’s pattern of filling up the box score.
Heights (7-3) plays undefeated McPherson in Friday’s semifinals.
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“Chris was terrific tonight,” Auer said. “Great pace, he got to the basket a ton tonight and did a great job defensively. That’s what we expect our senior point guard to do.”
Heights didn’t crack 58 points in losses to East and Bishop Carroll last week, and it has average fewer than 52 points in three defeats by a combined 13 points.
The Falcons have all other bases covered, though, and they exhibited their well-rounded play against Maize.
Heights can defend well even when the game goes into a higher tempo, with Lowe and fellow senior guard Semaj Hervey leading a defensive effort that stifled the Eagles’ transition efforts and helped Lowe and Hervey combine for eight steals – five by Lowe.
Those defensive achievements extend to Heights’ rebounding, since the Falcons boast a forward trio – Aaron Williams, Davon Gill and Cameron Ellis – that balances their perimeter superiority.
Thursday, Williams, Gill and Ellis combined for 25 rebounds and two blocks, and Heights held Maize to 20 points in the second half.
“We were hitting shots in the first quarter but (Maize) only scored nine,” Auer said. “We’re steady defensively all night. We’ve defended everybody well – we defended Wichita East well. We just had a bad week last week.… Our defensive effort has been there every night, and hopefully that will continue.”
Lowe was the embodiment of Heights’ versatility on Thursday, and he took it to another level with his scoring. He had two of the Falcons’ 11 assists and increased his defensive activity as he increased his point total, with three second-half steals.
Lowe scored nine points, and made all four of his shots, in the third quarter, when Heights outscored Maize 24-13 and pulled away after the Falcons trailed in the second quarter.
He teamed with Hervey to control the game defensively, as Maize made 7 of 20 shots in the second half and had eight turnovers. The Eagles couldn’t contain Lowe as he excelled from the perimeter and on drives to the basket.
“Whenever anybody makes a shot, it helps your confidence and it helps you do a lot of other things,” Lowe said. “It helps you stay engaged in games and focus more on defensive energy.”
McPherson 56, Hutchinson 43 – The Bullpups outscored Hutchinson in just one quarter, but their 20-3 advantage in the second allowed McPherson to play the second half without much stress.
The game was tied 13-13 before McPherson scored 18 of the final 19 points of the second quarter. Hutchinson had a 29-25 advantage in the second half but couldn’t make a serious run.
Payton Stephens led McPherson with 14 points. Jacob Loecker and Kyler Kinnamon scored 11 apiece.
MAIZE: Standifer 11, Goode 2, LeBegue 5, K. Johnson 10, Schultz 7, Ledbetter 8. Totals 15 (4) 9-17 43.
HEIGHTS: Hervey 12, Lowe 20, Bahner 5, Gill 14, Ellis 4, Johnson 3, Patrick 4, Williams 6. Totals 29 (4) 6-9 68.
HUTCHINSON: Howard 1, Webster 11, Richards 2, Fee 3, Wintz 13, Middleton 3, Stoecklein 6, Faucett 2, Maldanado 2. Totals 14 (4) 11-19 43.
MCPHERSON: Loecker 11, D. Pyle 7, B. Pyle 3, Kinnamon 11, Stephens 14, Wine 8, Gabel 2. Totals 22 (2) 10-15 56.