The winter break was a tempest for Southeast.
The questions, despite a five-game winning streak, centered around whether the Buffaloes could compete with the top teams in the City League. Whether star guard Jerrick Harding, a two-time City League scoring champion, could lead his team to a signature win.
Southeast turned out to have answers, dispatching the defending Class 5A champion Heights 69-51 to break the Falcons’ 19-game winning streak and put Southeast into a three-way tie atop the City League with East and Heights.
“We were just locked in, just focused,” Southeast guard D’Andre Franklin said. “Everybody was ready to roll. Everybody was ready to play.”
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No one more than Harding, who scored 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, and sophomore guard Israel Barnes, who had 25 points and 6 rebounds.
Southeast (6-1) has won six straight since a season-opening 67-65 loss to defending Class 6A champion East.
“We went into the break playing really well, and we kept that mentality going into the break,” Southeast coach Melvin Herring said. “What we did is we stuck to the principles, stuck to what we did every day in practice. And I thought, tonight, that D’Andre Franklin did a great job getting everybody to settle down and getting everybody into a rhythm.”
Southeast trailed 10-6 late in the first quarter before Harding scored back-to-back baskets on offensive rebounds, including a basket at the buzzer to tie the score 10-10. Southeast opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run — a three by Juan Manns and back-to-back baskets by Barnes — then ended the half with another buzzer-beater by Barnes for a 27-22 lead.
“I think we were a little shaky at the start, but we picked it up,” Harding said. “We stuck to the principles. We were playing in the gaps and moved the ball on offense.”
Southeast kept its foot on the pedal in the second half, pushing its lead to 44-34 at the end of the third quarter, then opening the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run in the first minute on a highlight-reel, reverse layup followed by steals and layups by Barnes and Franklin.
Heights (5-1) was led by Aaron Williams’ 13 points and 9 rebounds. The Falcons got just 4 points and 1 rebound from 6-foot-7 forward and second-leading scorer Davon Gill on 1-of-8 shooting.
“I thought we had a pretty good start, then lost just about every 50-50 ball,” Heights coach Joe Auer said. “We got outcompeted in our own house tonight, which is very disappointing. We were weak with the basketball, and (Southeast) is too good for that. All the credit goes to Southeast … they were really good tonight.”
Southeast: Manns 6, Franklin 5, Harding 23, Brown 4, Barnes 25, Jantzen 6.
Heights: Davis 6, Bahner 2, McCray 11, A. Williams 13, Gill 4, Andrews 4, K. Williams 11.