On the night of Jan. 4, Wichita Southeast coach Joe Mitchell went home and looked at his schedule.
The Golden Buffaloes had just been run out of the Heights gym with a 22-point loss, their first of the season.
As of Tuesday night, they are a win away from their first outright City League title since 2008 after a 72-64 home win over that same Heights team.
“This was huge for us,” Mitchell said. “I circled this day on the calendar way before this night. I felt like we didn’t play Southeast basketball, and I couldn’t wait to get out here. Our kids couldn’t wait to get out here.”
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Southeast got out to a 9-2 lead and never trailed.
Although Heights (14-4) made it tight late, 58-54 with 7:02 to go in the fourth quarter, Southeast made plays when needed. None were bigger than senior Breelyn Wright’s block.
After Wright snared a highly contested rebound, senior Johnny Murdock looked to make a cross-court pass that was intercepted. Heights junior DJ Hudspeth found senior K’Vonte Baker open under the basket.
Wright was at the free-throw line, but he closed the gap and blocked Baker’s layup. Murdock kept it in bounds, drove the floor and kicked to sophomore Jackie Johnson in the corner. Johnson dropped a three-pointer to make it a nine-point game with 4:12 to go.
After the game, Murdock and Johnson were juiced replaying the block in their heads.
“It was kind of like slow motion,” Wright said. “I came up real fast and just threw it off the backboard.”
The game had a moment like it did last year when Heights traveled to Southeast.
In 2018, then-Buffalo senior Israel Barnes hit a mid-range jumper with 22 seconds to go in a 68-64 win over the Falcons. After the game, he called it his, “Kobe moment,” a reference to former NBA great Kobe Bryant.
Mitchell said Wright’s block was that moment, and as Barnes said about his shot then, Mitchell said he deserved it.
“As of late, probably the last five games, Breelyn has become one of his own,” he said. “He’s becoming a man down there. I’ve been working with him every day, getting him comfortable and confident. He always had the skill. It was just about moving it to the basketball court, and he did that tonight.”
Wright finished with only 3 points, but was vital to keeping Heights’ bigs in check around the rim and getting them in foul trouble. Johnson led the way with a game-high 28 points. Murdock had 11, and junior Micah Jacques added 13.
With the win, Southeast (16-2) needs a home win over Kapuan (8-11) on Friday to clinch the City League title outright for the first time since Mitchell was a junior.
When the Southeast players were reminded of how close they are to Wichita’s premier championship, they couldn’t contain their excitement.
“We know we’ve just got to come out every game against every team like they can beat us,” Murdock said. “Like we were playing Heights again, East again, just come out and play.”