Joe Auer sat outside the locker room with his Heights assistant basketball coaches and planned the Falcons’ Saturday to the minute. Where they’ll meet, when they’ll eat, what they’ll wear.
The schedule will culminate with Heights going for its fourth straight Class 6A championship tonight at 6:15 against Blue Valley Northwest. The Falcons beat Blue Valley North 71-60 in Friday’s semifinals in front of around 3,500 fans at Koch Arena.
To the Falcons players who have never experienced a state championship game, Auer’s itinerary is a calming influence, a signal that veterans of the postseason are meticulous in their preparation but relaxed in their approach.
To those who have played in three straight title games — Terrence Moore and Perry Ellis — Heights’ docket is their work schedule, one they’ll follow perfectly because it has worked for three years straight.
"We believe in routines," Auer said. "We try to leave very little to chance. For some of the kids, it’s a little change of pace for them, it’s a little different. But we don’t leave anything to chance. Their whole day is planned out, especially this time of year. It does help us, without question."
BV Northwest, which stands in the way of Heights becoming the fifth team in any class to win four straight titles, won’t have the luxury of such preparation, at least when it comes to scouting the Falcons and their versatility.
A night after a win spurred by intangibles and effort, Heights dominated the second half with measurable strengths. The Falcons shot 76 percent after halftime, making 19 of 25 shots. They finished with 31 rebounds, reaching Auer’s benchmark total.
Heights had three double-figure scorers. Terrence Moore led all players with 24 points, pulling Heights through its only rough stretch. After BV North scored 11 straight points to go ahead 17-12, Moore made three threes in less than two minutes, helping Heights to a 29-28 halftime lead.
Moore is usually more apt to involve others and zone in on defense, but after his first three-pointer he uncharacteristically — but wisely — continued shooting.
"Perry was down their in the post and drawing a lot of attention," Moore said. "They weren’t really coming out on me, so I let it go and I’m glad it went in."
The Falcons carried over that energy to the second half, using BV North’s misses to start transition and wearing down the Huskies with pressure. Heights’ biggest lead was 12.
Ellis was quiet in the first half for the second straight game but, like in Heights’ quarterfinal win, took over in the second. He finished with 20 points, making six straight shots in the fourth quarter.
"In the second half, I just got into the flow and I started making some easy shots," Ellis said.
During the last four seasons, Auer has made sure his team has stayed in the moment, never looking past the present day. Today is the last present day the Heights basektball team as we know it will have. The Falcons’ look will significantly change next season.
But their planning won’t. Today may be the last day, but it’s not a different day.
"It just feels like another game," Moore said. "We just have to go out there and play our hearts out. For our seniors, this is the last time we’ll play basketball together or play basketball, period. We have to go out there and leave our hearts on the floor."