Compared to the unique circumstances Heights coach Joe Auer and his basketball team encountered this week, Kapaun Mount Carmel’s methodical approach to Friday’s contest was clear-cut.
If the Falcons didn’t figure out a way to disrupt the Crusaders’ offense and hit a few shots themselves, their four-game winning streak would be in peril.
Heights turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, and junior Tre King scored nine of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as the host Falcons rallied past Kapaun 43-35 to improve to 8-1.
Trailing for most of the first three quarters, Heights seized the lead on Arie Johnson’s three-pointer with 4:23 remaining. King added a three on the Falcons’ next possession, fueling a game-ending 19-6 run that boosted Heights to the victory.
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“We just stayed with it, and good things finally happened,” said King, a reserve guard. “We played good defense and never quit.”
It was Heights’ third consecutive game that went down to the wire, and came on the heels of Ealy Bell’s buzzer-beating bank shot on Tuesday that lifted the Falcons over Southeast 65-62. The shot gained wide-spread attention on the internet and was an ESPN SportsCenter top play.
Throw in Friday’s game in which Auer coached against his son, Kapaun senior Nick Auer, and an emotional cauldron brewed for Heights.
“It’s not natural to try to beat your child, but I was really proud of the opportunity to compete against him,” Auer said. “And our kids are on emotional overload right now. When you go viral, that’s a new one for me as a coach. They were great, though. Really mature.”
Kapaun (4-5, 4-4 City League) grabbed Heights’ attention from the start. The Crusaders moved the ball crisply against the Falcons’ zone and led 16-9 after the first quarter.
“Our execution was a lot better tonight,” Kapaun sophomore Brock Monty said. “We played well overall, but we just didn’t hit shots at the end.”
Heights, which got 10 points from Bell, struggled offensively to overcome the deficit. The Falcons shot 33 percent in the second and third quarter and trailed 29-26 heading to the fourth.
Neither team scored in the final quarter until Cameron Ellis’ putback cut Heights’ deficit to one. After a Kapaun turnover, Johnson sank a three from the right wing — his lone field goal in six attempts — to give the Falcons their first lead since the opening quarter.
“The kids got an incredible boost of energy from it,” Auer said. “It really gave us a lot of confidence and we were really terrific after that. … That was a huge moment.”
Kapaun, which got 12 points from Thomas O’Connor, trailed 37-35 with 1:44 to play after O’Connor hit his fourth three-pointer. But King and Bell combined to make 6 of 6 free throws down the stretch for Heights.
The Crusaders committed eight of their 12 turnovers in the second half as Heights increased its pressure.
“Coach (John) Cherne had a tremendous game plan, and we had to adjust and figure it out,” Auer said. “We extended defensively, closed to take their vision away and got in some passing lanes. That was very effective for us.”
“We have a lot of people that can step up,” Steven said. “It doesn’t always have to be the same person.”
KAPAUN: Ewers 0 0-0 0, O’Connor 4 0-0 12, Auer 0 0-0 0, Monty 3 2-2 8, Cherne 0 0-0 0, Hickerson 4 0-1 8, Patton 3 0-0 7, Sheets 0 0-0 0, Lickteig 0 0-0 0.
HEIGHTS: Harvey 1 0-0 2, Bell 4 2-4 10, A. Johnson 1 0-0 3, Gill 2 2-4 6, Ellis 2 0-0 4, King 4 6-7 16, Wilbeck 0 0-0 0, Lowe 1 0-0 2, J. Johnson 0 0-0 0.