Kapaun boys hand East its first loss

Published Jan. 7 at 6:29 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 7 at 6:40 p.m.

East junior Larry Dennis opened Saturday's basketball game with Kapaun Mount Carmel by driving inside for a basket. Then he made another inside basket. By the midpoint of the first period, Dennis had nine of East's 11 points and three rebounds.

Yet the score was tied.

Kapaun stayed right with East, ran with East, drove inside on East. It was Kapaun that pushed the pace. It was Kapaun that played, as East coach Ron Allen called it, a near-perfect game.

And it was Kapaun that won 57-54, handing East its first loss.

"It was a huge win," Kapaun junior Toby Baxter said. "We needed that signature win."

Baxter finished with 13 points, hitting four free throws in the final 30.8 seconds.

But it was the way that Kapaun (4-3, 4-2 CL) won its third straight that was impressive.

"We thought we were at least applying a little pressure to upset them and get them out of their rhythm," Allen said. "It never did."

Kapaun handled the pressure, whether it was on the press or East trying to push the Crusaders deeper out on the perimeter offensively.

They also forced East turnovers, getting seven in the first half en route to a 30-27 lead at the break.

"Coach, all week in practice, told us to box out," Baxter said. "We were getting rebounds and pushing the ball up the court, and that really helped with our scoring."

Allen agreed.

"They hit some unbelievable shots," he said. "They miss those shots and we get in the transition game, we get a lead and now they're chasing us. Most of the night, we were chasing them."

This was a different style of game from what Kapaun opened the season playing, when it slowed the game against Heights, often holding the ball.

"At first, I'd say we were a 50-point (scoring) team or less," Kapaun first-year coach John Cherne said. "And I told the kids we'd probably win 70 percent of the games if we do that.

"Increasing the tempo is a little more fun for the kids, and that was a big thing over the Christmas break."

In the final two minutes, Baxter tied the score at 50-all by hitting a jumper, then teammate Damien Akao stole the ball and Michael Martin was fouled, hitting two free throws.

East had a chance to tie the score, but Jalen Love's three-pointer bounced off at the buzzer.

"I don't want to think that we were not prepared and I don't want to say that our kids don't understand what's at stake," Allen said. "I think Kapaun was better than we expected."

Nick Cook had 12 points for Kapaun, while East was led by Nathan Jackson and Dennis' 15 points apiece.

Kapaun (4-3, 4-2) 16 14 10 17 — 57

East (6-1, 5-1) 15 12 11 16 — 54

KAPAUN: M. Martin 3 2-4 9, Young 0 0-0 0, Cook 5 2-3 12, J. Martin 1 0-0 2, Baxter 4 5-6 13, Hagan 1 0-2 2, Hullings 3 0-0 7, Lickteig 2 0-0 4, Akao 3 0-0 6, Hamilton 3 0-0 6. Totals 22 (2) 11-17 57.

EAST: Jackson 7 1-3 15, Brandon 1 0-0 2, Dennis 6 2-2 15, Burris 3 0-0 6, Love 4 2-3 11, Hester 2 1-1 5, Nespor 0 0-0 0, Terrell 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 (2) 6-9 54.

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