A 15-point lead late in a quarter seemed like a sensible time for Kapaun Mount Carmel to take a breath.
Southeast wouldn’t allow it. The Buffaloes never relented on defense and forced Kapaun to attack with equal fervor.
Outside of one late-third-quarter possession, which resulted in a turnover, Kapaun embraced and met the challenge, winning Friday’s basketball game 88-76.
Kapaun (13-3, 11-1 City League) made 10 three-pointers and thrived in transition, besting Southeast in a game of quick possessions – typically Southeast’s forte.
“As a coach, no, I don’t feel comfortable playing fast,” Kapaun coach John Cherne said. “We needed to run our offense, and we were real fortunate we were shooting the ball well tonight.”
Kapaun never allowed Southeast (9-7, 6-6) to become the aggressor, at least not for an extended period. Kapaun scored the first nine points and started the other three quarters with similar spurts.
Southeast sometimes had an answer, like when it scored the game’s second nine points and emerged with a lead after the first quarter. But Kapaun eventually took the upper hand, starting the third quarter on a 19-3 run to build a 63-44 lead.
“There in the first half, they were getting a whole bunch of baseline drives,” Cherne said. “That was creating a whole bunch of opportunities for them. That’s all we talked about at halftime was how we wanted to rotate defensively and take away that baseline drive. We executed that really well.”
Southeast was carried by junior phenom Israel Barnes, the City League’s leading scorer at better than 29 points per game. Barnes scored 35, but Kapaun’s third-quarter dominance coincided with Barnes’ worst stretch.
Barnes made 2 of 6 shots in the third and missed 5 of 8 free throws and Southeast had no one to pick up the slack.
Kapaun, meanwhile, had several standouts. Mark Hutton had 26 points and 10 rebounds; Chris Meitzner made four three-pointers and scored 21; Mitchell Woodward had 17 points and J.T. Bell notched eight points and nine rebounds.
“It’s a team thing,” said the 6-foot-2 Hutton. “I provide a lot of length, which is good for the team. Overall, we just go and (rebound) because we’re not a tall team at all.”
Kapaun is closing in on a league championship because of performances like Friday’s. The Crusaders’ apparent plan to slow the pace was thwarted by Southeast’s desparation, so Kapaun readjusted immediately.
Barnes’ third-quarter buzzer-beater cut Kapaun’s lead to 65-53, an easly eraseable deficit for Southeast’s prolific offense. But Kapaun reenergized for thr fourth, scoring nine of the first 13 points to eliminate Southeast’s comeback potential.
“All my kids fight hard, they all play hard,” Cherne said. “We were getting on the boards in the second half, and Mark was a big part of that.”
KAPAUN: Hutton 26, Eberhart 3, Meitzner 21, Kennedy 1, Wells 11, Bell 8, Woodward 17, Channell 1.
SOUTHEAST: Barnes 35, Frierson 4, Campbell 4, Murdock 19, Perkins 8, Adkins 6.