When Tanner Mans came down and heard the whistle, he let out a yell and smiled to the Heights fans.
Mans had rattled home an and-one layup to give Bishop Carroll a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter in an eventual 61-46 win over the previously undefeated Falcons. They entered as the No. 1 team in Class 5A in the latest Kansas Basketball Coaches Association rankings.
The juice was back Tuesday night.
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“We knew we were going to have to bring the energy,” Mans said. “They were over there clapping in the huddle before the game, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is about to be a more hype game than a Tuesday night should be.’
“We just caught a spark tonight. I don’t know what it was.”
Carroll trailed 31-21 at halftime and outscored Heights 40-25 in the second half. Coach Mike Domnick said where many teams would fold on the road against such a talented team, his group knows they are never out of it.
“We didn’t panic in the locker room,” he said. “The teams we had to beat to get the championship were phenomenal teams. In the first half, we had a lot of shooters and not a lot of makers. We just had a great second half.”
Last year, Carroll got out to a 1-4 start before rattling off 19 wins in 20 games, including one in the Class 5A state championship game agianst Salina Central in overtime. This year, the Eagles have been a bit slow out of the gate again.
Entering Tuesday, Carroll was 5-2 and tied for third in the City League. The Eagles were a buzzer-beater from senior Carsen Pracht away against Kapaun from at least three losses before the AVCTL/GWAL Challenge.
Pracht said tonight was the night to turn it around.
“It just clicked,” Pracht said. “We finally used our defense to turn into our offense. We didn’t really have anything to lose in that position. They had a lot to lose. They had the target on their back.”
Domnick said his team has struggled with communication at times this season, and that has led to the semi-rocky start. Against Heights, he said it was much better.
Last season, Carroll relied on All-State selection Luke Evans to lead the communication, set up the offensive and defensive sets and ultimately execute. He was critical to the Eagles’ title. He was the only senior.
Tuesday, the Eagles’ motion offense and gap defense came to life as it did late last year. Carroll struggled in the first half, making just eight buckets and getting to the free throw line twice. In the final two quarters, the Eagles hit 14 shots and were 9-of-10 from the line.
Carroll faces another state-ranked, undefeated team on the road Friday in No. 3 Maize. Domnick said he knows his group isn’t where it needs to be, but after Tuesday, he believes they can get there again.
“I was wondering when these pieces were going to come together because we haven’t played terribly well,” he said. “We haven’t beaten an above .500 team. They’re the best team in the league, maybe in the state. Now it’s about can we do it two games in a row?
“That’s OK. We want to be challenged. That’s what we want. That’s what we get in the City League.”