KANSAS CITY, Mo. —About midway through the first quarter of Heights' 86-69 win over Nixa (Mo.), the team started to realize that it was just a little too fast and athletic for its Missouri-based opponent Saturday night.
The Falcons were used to the speed and the intensity that its games in the City League provided, and even without starting forward Dreamius Smith in the lineup, it dominated a previously undefeated Nixa team that had been averaging close to 85 points per game.
"I think you saw our speed and our confidence versus them because or our league," Auer said. "We told the kids, 'we're here to represent the City League today. We're here to represent the City League and to demonstrate just how good basketball is in our league right now.' "
With Smith on his official football visit to Kansas, forward Aaron Degraffenread got the start. He and forward Aaron Jefferson combined for 19 points.
Both were at their best in the first half when Heights (5-0) pulled out to as much as a 21-point lead before going into the locker room ahead 45-28. Degraffenread scored seven of his nine points in the first half and had seven rebounds, while Jefferson scored eight of his 10 points in the first 16 minutes. Jefferson said it was a situation that he and Degraffenread wanted to take advantage of.
"We were missing a player, Dreamius Smith, and coach told us we were going to have to come out and play a lot tonight," Jefferson said. "I came out, hit some shots, on defense and gave us a spark. Aaron (Degraffenread) played hard too."
Heights closed out on Nixa, a team that likes to attack from behind the three-point line. It played solid defense for most of the game, and even held a 25-point lead after a Perry Ellis dunk in the final minute of the third quarter to put the Falcons up 64-39. However, when fatigue set in Auer noticed some bad habits that he wants to break with practice over the winter break.
"We have a lot to work on," Auer said. "We have to learn how to stay in a defensive stance for 32 minutes. We have to learn to get loose ball for 32 minutes. We've got to rebound for 32 minutes. Tonight I though we were pretty good for about 20."
Terrance Moore had a big scoring night for Heights, using his speed to get to the basket in transition. He scored and in half court sets to drop 19 points on Nixa, who always seemed to be a step too slow.
In an attempt to throw off Nixa's fullcourt press early in the first quarter, Auer let Ellis (23 points, 8 rebounds) bring the ball up the court on multiple occasions. Ellis showed off his improved ball-handling when he crossed over Nixa defender Jalen Norman — who fell — giving Heights a numbers advantage. Ellis hit Degraffenread in the corner for an open three to give his team a 5-0 lead.
"It helps our point guards a lot because the other team doesn't know I can do that," Ellis said after shooting a perfect 10-for-10 Saturday night.
Heights (5-0) 21 24 21 20 — 86 Nixa, Mo. (6-1) 11 17 18 23 — 69
HEIGHTS: Dobbins 2 2-2 7, Wessel 6 3-4 16, Moore 9 1-2 19, Degraffenread 3 2-4 9, Ellis 10 3-5 23, Jefferson 4 0-0 10, Cross 1 0-0 2. Totals 35 (5) 11-17 86.
NIXA: Ruder 5 4-4 16, Denbow 2 0-0 4, Bundy 5 3-3 15, Norman 9 2-3 21, Fisher 3 0-0 8, Epps 2 1-1 5. Totals 26 (7) 10-11 69.