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South and Northwest wins show how wild City League race could be

Published Jan. 10 at 11:57 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 10 at 11:58 p.m.

In a display of just how crazy the race for this season’s City League championship could become, three of the top teams in the league all lost on Tuesday.

Previously-unbeaten Kapaun Mount Carmel fell to South, 71-64, East edged Heights in a 54-53 thriller, and Northwest shocked Southeast 87-75, despite star Israel Barnes going off for a season-high 41 points.

After the dust cleared, Kapaun (7-1) maintained its 1-game advantage over Heights (6-2), but South (5-3) and East (5-3) clawed one game closer to the front. Not to mention that Southeast (4-4), North (4-4), Bishop Carroll (3-5), and Northwest (2-6) have all at the very least proven capable of pushing teams in the top-four right now.

“That’s the one thing about the City League, you can’t underestimate nobody,” South coach Chuck Gunter said after his team stunned Kapaun late Tuesday night. “Each day you’ve got to be ready to play. Every game you have to take serious in this league because nobody is going to lay down, nobody is going to hand you anything.”

Northwest served up that reminder on Tuesday when it beat Southeast, an established team with an established star. The Grizzlies may have entered the game 1-6, but how many 1-6 teams boast the talent that Northwest can with Michael Duncan, Jalen Smith, and Jamir Cupps?

And just like that, with a 12-point win, Northwest gains the confidence it can defeat the upper-tier of the City League and Southeast is sent tumbling to third loss in the last four games and sits with a mediocre 4-4 record, despite a Top-10 ranking given to it by the coaches in Class 6A.

“It was tough, man. You’re 1-6 and everyone is telling you you’re better than that, but you’re still not receiving the results,” Northwest coach Bryan Chadwick said. “They were kind of down. But they came out tonight and they played some incredible defense and they shared the ball on offense and it was just a joy to watch. It really was a joy to watch.”

That’s how quickly things can turn in the City League.

For the first seven games of this season, Kapaun had overwhelmed opponents with its guard play. The big three of Chris Meitzner, Thomas Wells, and Mitchell Woodward had taken over the City League, leading the Crusaders to an undefeated record and a No. 1 ranking in Class 5A.

But on Tuesday night, South found an answer. Sure, Kapaun missed its fair amount of shots. But South was ruthlessly efficient in the second quarter, outscoring Kapaun 22-10, and put the City League leaders in an 18-point hole at one point.

Kapaun rallied, but South’s length was too much to overcome. Malcolm Tate once again was his dynamic self and led the game in scoring with 22 points, while 6-foot-8 Remy Lemovou is steadily transforming into a two-way force in the league and added 21 points against Kapaun.

“It’s a pretty big win for us, but we know it’s still the first half of the season,” Gunter said. “I told the boys that we’re still taking things one game at a time. We got up 18 and let them back in it, so there are things we could have done better. It’s a very big win, though, and a lot of people probably didn’t expect it. But we’ve got some talent this year.”

Tuesday marked the end of the first round of round-robin play in the City League schedule. For how impressive Kapaun’s start to the season was and how resilient Heights has proven to be this season, neither can afford to take a breathe atop the league considering how competitive it is from top to bottom.

The second half of the schedule is sure to present entertaining matchups on a nightly basis and what could potentially be one of the more entertaining City League title races to follow with so much parody in the league.

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @vkeldridge

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