East had plenty of wins — but not a signature victory — entering the second round of City League play.
That changed on Tuesday night with a 49-46 win over Kapaun Mount Carmel.
It also breaks the tie for second between the two teams, as East moved sole possession of second place at 7-2 in City League play, and one game back of North. Kapaun falls to 6-3 in league play.
“We’ve been one of those teams where we’re right on the verge of breaking through,” East coach Joe Jackson said. “We’ve got all the pieces to do it. We just have to put it all together and I think (Tuesday) we took a step in the right direction.”
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East led virtually the entire game by single-digits until Kapaun rallied to tie the score at 45-all with 5:24 left. That’s when the up-and-down game halted and transformed into a halfcourt duel.
Each team had six possessions to win the game down the stretch and East won the chess match, scoring on three of them, while Kapaun could only produce one point on its chances.
Kapaun senior Braden Hullings (15 points) had two chances to tie the game in the final 30 seconds, but both jumpers misfired.
“We’re one defensive stop away from things turning our way,” Kapaun coach John Cherne said. “One free throw away, one stand away. We’re just one away. It’s not the end of the world, but we’ve got to become a better one-possession-stop team.”
Nearly all of Kapaun’s defensive problems stemmed from its inability to contain East guard De’Shawn Terrell. He consistently broke down the defense by penetrating off the dribble, which allowed him to control the game via other ways than scoring.
“I’m more concerned about trying to get everyone playing together and looking for the open man,” said Terrell, who had four points, three rebounds, eight assists and three steals. “We played really good. We needed a game like this.”
With a sickness limiting the minutes of leading scorer Samajae Jones (14.6 points per game), who was held scoreless, East’s JJ Normore shouldered the responsibility of carrying the scoring load.
Normore made scoring look effortless at times, swishing long three-pointers, hitting bank shots and finishing at the rim — he finished with a game-high 19 points.
“I just found my rhythm and took off,” said Normore. “I didn’t play so well last game, so I wanted to come out (Tuesday) and show out a bit.”
KAPAUN: Hullings 4 5-5 15, Cherne 1 1-2 3, Baxter 3 1-2 7, Hamilton 2 0-0 4, Lickteig 6 2-5 14, Santiago 0 0-0 0, Akao 0 0-0 0, Gross 0 0-0 0, Ewers 0 0-0 0, O’Connor 1 0-0 3, Dempsey 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 (3) 9-14 46.
EAST: Terrell 2 0-0 4, McGairty 5 0-1 10, Hester 4 0-0 8, Normore 7 3-4 19, Nespor 2 1-2 5, Fralin 0 0-0 0, Griffin 1 0-1 2, Jackson 0 1-2 1, Jones 0 0-0 0, Martin 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 (2) 5-10 49.