Southeast boys coach Melvin Herring thought nine days between games may have yielded a few side effects for his team down the stretch Thursday against Topeka High.
But if that explained some second-half sluggishness during the Buffaloes’ 85-70 victory in the Class 6A sub-state semifinals, what could be made of Southeast’s sensational 58-point first half?
“That was our style of basketball,” Herring said. “We want to be in transition a lot. We want to push the ball up the floor.”
Southeast (17-4) made 22 of 29 field goals in the opening half to ensure a spot in Saturday’s final against Lawrence Free State, a 54-52 winner over Junction City. Sophomore Israel Barnes scored 29 points on 14-of-21 shooting, while senior Jerrick Harding added 27.
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“It was good to get back in rhythm,” said Barnes, who scored 14 points in the second quarter after Harding staked Southeast to a 31-24 first-quarter lead with 16 points. “We just wanted to start out on a good note in sub-state and hopefully lead us on to state.”
TC Smith III led five Topeka players in double figures with 17 points. But the Trojans’ defensive struggles led to a season-ending loss to Southeast for the second straight year.
“It was more of a case of us not coming together defensively,” said Smith, whose team dropped an 84-68 decision to Southeast a year ago. “We had our defensive moments, but then we’d take two steps back.”
Southeast, which also got 11 points from Milan Brown, finished 56 percent from the field (34 of 61). The Buffaloes led by as many as 20 and didn’t let their advantage dip into single digits after the break.
Still, Southeast’s offense couldn’t maintain the high standard it set in the first half. With Topeka adjusting its game plan to cut off penetration in the lane, the Buffaloes spent chunks of the second half settling for three-point attempts. The Trojans got within 78-68 on John Madden’s follow shot with 3:56 remaining.
“We won the game, but at the end of the day we didn’t playing Southeast basketball,” Barnes said. “We didn’t sit down and get stops and play the way that we can play. We just need to do what Coach wants us to do.”
Topeka: Jackson 11, Hendricks 8, Smith III 17, King 11, Madden 13, Scott 10.
Southeast: Barnes 29, Manns 8, Franklin 1, Harding 27, Brown 11, Reed 5, Cobbins 4.