The Heights boys look and feel complete again. And their star player was better than ever on Friday night.
Junior forward Evan Wessel returned to the lineup after missing the first seven games. Neither he nor the Falcons, who hadn't played since Dec. 19 before beating Northwest 86-55, looked rusty.
Wessel scored 16 points in his return from a broken hand and sophomore center Perry Ellis set a career high with 38 points on 15-of-20 shooting.
"We had a great holiday practice session," Heights coach Joe Auer said. "Obviously, it's great to have Evan back, but I thought everybody played well tonight and we just kept our intensity up all night."
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With two starters back from last year's Class 6A champion, Auer calls this season's team a work in progress.
It's difficult not to make the Falcons a favorite to repeat after their dominance of Northwest, a young but up-and-coming team which entered with a 5-2 record.
The difference maker was the second quarter, when Heights stretched a six-point lead to 21 and Wessel warmed up, scoring three baskets in less than two minutes.
Besides a three-pointer from the corner that hit the side of the backboard, Wessel's return was a success — he complemented Ellis' scoring while improving the Falcons' depth at multiple positions.
"Evan can play point guard and Evan can play center," Auer said of the 6-foot-4 Wessel. "We're very diverse with Wessel in the lineup; he gives us a lot of options."
Ellis opened the scoring with a three-point play and never slowed down. Like Wessel, the 6-foot-8 Ellis proved his versatility by scoring in a variety of ways, including three dunks and a three-pointer.
Ellis hit 38 points with five minutes to go and was in range of CJ Martin's school-record 43 points, set in 1998. But Ellis didn't score again and he was removed with Heights' other starters with about two minutes to go.
"In practice, I've worked on staying in the middle of the floor a lot," Ellis said. "Just run the middle of the floor and get points like that — that helped a lot."
Ellis' offense was only part of an impressive night that also saw him grab a game-high 13 rebounds and hold 6-foot-7 Northwest center Spenser Gales scoreless.
The Grizzlies' lack of post production doomed them. Guards Anthony Collins and Craig Nicholson combined for 39 points, but Northwest had nothing to answer Ellis inside.
"They were ready to play and, bottom line, we weren't ready to play," Northwest coach Chris Collins said. "That's the synopsis, essentially. I felt like we had a good game plan for them, we just didn't respond."
The Falcons lost two games before the holiday break. Those defeats apparently stung, because with Wessel back they returned from the layoff with their highest point total and most lopsided victory of the season.
"It's nice to get back," Wessel said. "Nice to get back with my team, get back on the court. I'm just trying to get back into it slowly. My teammates have done a great job without me. We have a great team to start off with, so I just try to do what I need to do."
Northwest (5-3, 5-2) 12 9 19 15 -- 55 Heights (6-2, 5-1) 18 24 17 27 -- 86
NORTHWEST: Collins 8 2-2 19, Nicholson 5 7-10 20, Carson 2 1-3 5, Gales 0 0-0 0, Johnson 2 0-1 5, Beiker 0 0-0 0, Fox 1 0-0 2, Landenberger 0 0-0 0, White 0 0-0 0, Miller 1 2-2 4. Totals 19 (5) 12-18 55.
HEIGHTS: Dobbins 3 2-4 9, Wessel 8 0-1 16, Smith 2 3-6 7, Moore 4 0-0 9, Ellis 15 7-7 38, Countee 0 0-0 0, Degraffenread 0 0-0 0, Bradley 1 0-0 3, Riley 1 0-0 2, Cross 1 0-0 2, Brickhouse 0 0-0 0, Owens 0 0-0 0. Totals 35 (4) 12-18 86.