East’s boys waited too long to turn up the defensive pressure in their first meeting with Kapaun Mount Carmel and lost in overtime.
The Blue Aces came hard from the start Tuesday and prevented Kapaun from clinching the outright City League title with a 70-62 victory.
Michael McKinney scored 23 points and James Caldwell added 17 for East (12-7, 10-5), which snapped Kapaun’s six-game winning streak. McKinney connected with Caldwell for a lob dunk with 11 seconds remaining to punctuate the victory.
“We didn’t want to wait 30 minutes to get going tonight,” East coach Joe Jackson said, referring to the 14-point deficit the Aces erased against Kapaun at the end of regulation before falling in the teams’ first duel 72-69. “We played the most complete game we’ve played all year.”
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East trailed just once, at 3-2, before taking control against Kapaun. The Aces shot 55 percent and forced 16 Kapaun turnovers. McKinney, a senior guard, did his work on 8-of-9 shooting.
“He was unreal tonight,” Jackson said. “He was in attack mode from the start and that was really our approach across the board.”
East led 28-22 at halftime, then started the third quarter with a 13-2 run to put Kapaun (15-4, 13-2) on the ropes.
“They played better than us tonight,” Kapaun coach John Cherne said. “They played harder and they wanted it more than we did.”
It was a disappointing effort for Cherne, whose team was locked into the No. 3 seed in its Class 5A sub-state pool next week after the teams the Crusaders were chasing – Eisenhower and Liberal – both won. Kapaun, which secured a tie for the City title with a win over Bishop Carroll last week, was trying to win the league outright for the first time since the 1974-75 season.
Instead, East stretched its lead to 17 points in the third quarter before Kapaun began chipping away. The Crusaders, who got all of their points from their starters, pulled within 64-58 with 1:09 remaining.
Chris Meitzner led Kapaun with 19 points, including four three-pointers. Mark Hutton and Mitchell Woodward each added 12 and Thomas Wells scored 10.
But Kapaun will need to defeat South or have Heights lose its home finale to East to get its title.
“We’ve been teetering on the edge for a few games now with the way we’ve been playing,” Cherne said. “We seem to think we can flip a switch, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Not against a motivated East team trying to improve its sub-state position. The Aces were at their best in the opening minutes of the third quarter, when McKinney scored off a blocked shot by Caldwell. Caldwell and Zion Fralin, who scored 10 points, added baskets and McKinney followed with a baseline three during a run that stretched East’s lead to 41-24.
“They are really good and that was a big win for us,” Jackson said. “We needed it as we’re getting closer to the postseason. This was a good step in the right direction.”
KAPAUN: Hutton 12, Meitzner 19, Wells 10, Bell 9, Woodward 12.
EAST: McKinney 23, Thomas 2, Kelly 2, Fralin 10, Caldwell 17, Silmon 2, Randle 2, Jenkins 8, Valentin 2, Carter 2.