East won another important basketball game on Friday, 69-60 over Heights in the regular-season finale, so Zion Fralin is going shopping again.
Fralin, a senior guard credits East’s late-season surge with improved chemistry from team-bonding activities. He’ll try to continue organizing them as long as the Blue Aces keep winning.
East (13-7, 11-5 City League) closed the season with wins over Kapaun Mount Carmel and Heights, altering each team’s path to the league title.
“Everyone to come over to my house, eat corn dogs, chili dogs, whatever,” Fralin said. “I just put them in the oven.
“We got together once over at my house, made chili dogs. I’m trying to do it again here soon, but you’ve got to feed all these people. You’ve got to get the food for it.”
East’s three-game winning streak is its longest of the season. The rigors of the City League kept the Aces from their own shot at the title, but spoiling the chances for one team and nearly doing so for another is the next best thing.
Thursday’s win was highlighted by the effort coach Joe Jackson, who led East to the Class 6A championship in 2015, believes crucial to postseason success.
East held off Heights (15-5, 12-4), which cut a 12-point third quarter deficit to two in the fourth, by outrebounding the Falcons 17-6 in the final quarter.
“For a while, they had controlled the boards for several possessions before that mark in the fourth,” Jackson said. “At the timeout, that’s what we addressed. I said we need to get every single rebound from this point forward.”
Heights’ rally was fueled by two putbacks from Decquan Richardson, cutting East’s lead to 51-49 with five minutes to play. East seemed to take Jackson’s message literally, because Heights had three rebounds the rest of the way.
Not that the Falcons didn’t have chances. Their guards consistently drove to the basket, but all of the shots were contested and Heights was felled by several missed layups.
“We’re trying to stay between ball and rim (defensively),” Jackson said. “But credit Heights. They’ve got some guys that can get there. I thought our guys did, for the most part, a pretty good job of challenging shots at the rim and in the paint.”
Fralin, a 6-foot-2 guard scored 11 points and five of his 11 rebounds came in the fourth quarter. He was one of three double-figure scorers for East, which was led by 19 points from guard Michael McKinney.
Fralin keyed the intangibles that helped East win Friday and he’ll lead the next team gathering as the Aces prepare for a potential postseason run.
“The team has really bought into each other,” Fralin said. “We’re really starting to love each other, especially in the locker room. Coach has really done a good job just bringing everybody together.”
East 23 9 18 19 -- 69
Heights 15 13 13 19 -- 60
EAST: McKinney 19, Jenkins 3, Roberts 3, Randle 11, Fralin 11, Caldwell 4, Silmon 5, Jacobs 8, Carter 5.
HEIGHTS: Andrews 11, Davis 10, Baker 6, Kirkendoll 7, Okon 4, Collins 14, Driskill , Richardson 6.