Heights gets important win over Southeast
Ealy Bell’s influence on Heights’ rematch with Southeast on Tuesday was far more subtle than the impact of his off-balance buzzer beater that took down the Buffaloes in mid-January.
But it was equally significant in allowing the Falcons to complete a season sweep over Southeast and secure a No. 1 seed in next week’s Class 5A sub-state tournament.
Bell kept close watch on Southeast sophomore Jerrick Harding from his wing position in Heights’ zone defense after Harding burned the Falcons for 20 first-half points. Harding finished with 24, but host Heights controlled the second half for a 63-53 victory that secured sole possession of second place in the City League behind East.
“We were playing our zone, and really just trying to match up on them and make them drive,” said Bell, who led four Falcons in double figures with 12 points. “We knew if we could make them drive into Cameron (Ellis) and Davon (Gill), they probably wouldn’t make enough shots to beat us.”
Heights (15-4, 13-2 City League) limited Southeast to 33-percent shooting, including 1 of 11 during a pivotal third quarter in which the Falcons outscored the Buffs 15-2. Heights also corrected a first-half flaw – defensive rebounding – that allowed Southeast to lead by as many as seven points before settling for a 35-31 halftime lead.
“At halftime, we said we have to limit them to one (shot),” Heights coach Joe Auer said. “When a team can shoot it like they can shoot it and when you give them second chances — especially Harding — that’s a bad recipe.”
As the first-half pace quickened, Harding, a 5-foot-10 guard, flourished. He scored 13 points in the second quarter, including a three-point play and a banked three-pointer from near the baseline.
But Heights, which built a 10-3 lead in the game’s first 3½ minutes, also started the second half strong. Reserve Arie Johnson followed Bell’s steal and layup with a three-pointer that put the Falcons ahead for good at 36-35. Heights’ advantage swelled to 46-37 by the end of the third quarter as Southeast’s lone points of the third came on a reverse layup by E.J. Garnes.
“It was just intensity,” Southeast coach Melvin Herring said of the Buffs’ missing ingredient. “I felt we struggled in the first half and just struggled worse in the second half. Late in the second quarter, we picked it up and played better basketball, but we were just flat.”
Harding went scoreless in the third quarter while sharpshooting teammate Jordan Murdock, who finished with 10 points, was just 1 of 6 from three-point range. Heights countered with a balanced, patient offense. Gill, Johnson and reserve Tre King each scored 10 points to join Bell in double figures.
Heights mixed 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones with other looks to keep Southeast’s offense in check. The Buffs didn’t get their second field goal of the second half until D’Andre Franklin hit a three with 2:07 to play.
Meanwhile, Bell capped his scoring with a pair of fast-break baskets, the final one giving Heights its biggest lead at 61-47.
“This group of guys knows what wins games,” Bell said. “Defense is a calling card for us. Sometimes we have good offensive nights, sometimes we don’t. Tonight was OK.”
The victory put Heights two games ahead of Southeast (14-5, 11-4) with one remaining in the league battle for second. The Falcons will also have the best record of the eight teams in their 5A sub-state pool regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s regular-season finale at Kapaun Mount Carmel.
“Those are two things we wanted to accomplish this week, and we got them done tonight,” Auer said. “I think we’re in a good place to make a good run in the postseason.”
Southeast: Garnes 8, Harding 24, Oyugi 2, Murdock 10, Ruffin 4, Franklin 5.
Heights: Hervey 7, Lowe 4, Bell 12, Wilbeck 6, Gill 10, King 10, A. Johnson 10, Taylor 3, J. Johnson 1.