The Wichita Heights Falcons advanced to the finals of the 2018 Tournament of Champions, beating the Hays Indians 76-51 Friday afternoon.
Hays made 12 3-pointers in their opening game against Manhattan Thursday, but were held to 10 of 48 in Friday’s game against Wichita Heights.
The game was close early. Hays entered the second quarter with the lead 17-16 after a first quarter that had seven lead changes.
At the end of it, Heights adapted their strategy a little bit.
“We did make an adjustment after the first quarter,” Wichita Heights head coach Joe Auer said. “We didn’t rely on full-court pressure. First quarter, we shot the ball well but we tried to apply full-court pressure on makes. All that did was promote their crazy, spread-out, catch-and-shoot 3-ball would more.”
After that, the Falcons tightened up defensively.
“We simplified is what we did,” Auer said. “We simplified what we were doing so we could get better closeouts and so we covered their shooters really well after the first quarter.”
After that, the Falcons took control, outscoring the Indians 23-6 in the second quarter.
“We were confident that the game was gonna turn,” Auer said. “When you play mid-season tournaments, these are all unusual experiences. So we’ve never played a team that shot 48 3’s. I’ve been coaching high school basketball as a head coach for 23 years. I’ve never heard of shooting 48 3’s in a game before.”
That kind of offense can be difficult to prepare for.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Auer said. “We knew they were going to shoot the 3, but 48,” Auer said. “And they just kept doing it. We were up 30, and they just kept coming and coming.”
They also outscored the Indians 21-14 in the third quarter and 16-14 in the fourth.
“Huge win for us, very unusual style, and I thought we were very determined to rebound,” Auer said.
The Falcons out-rebounded the Indians 50-38 and only allowed two second-chance points.
“We had 50 rebounds today,” Auer said. “That is a record. We set a single-game rebounding record tonight, 50 rebounds. So that tells you that we won the game. Fifty rebounds you’re not going to lose.”
The team also had 23 assists as a team.
“I’m really proud of the fact that they missed 38 3’s, we had 41 defensive rebounds, so that was the game,” Auer said. “That (was) one-and-done. Most of the night one-and-done.”
Hays only got two second-chance points in Friday’s game.
“That showed a high level of maturity for our kids,” Auer said. “Basically (Hays is) presenting you with the opportunity to just play a pick-up game. I mean it’s like being at the noontime game at the Y(MCA). So they’re trying to coax you into that: Basket-for-basket, you get yours and I’ll get mine, and our kids didn’t take the bait.”
Senior Devin Davis had a game-high 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Falcons, and freshman Danair Dempsey had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
For the Indians, senior Cole Murphy had a team-high 20 points, while senior Peyton Kieffer had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Heights senior Curtis Profit, the team’s point guard, was one player who Auer said had a bigger impact on the game than the stats would reveal. He had nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists, meaning he was one point, one rebound and two assists shy of a triple-double.
“(Profit had) one turnover, eight assists, that’s phenomenal,” Auer said. “And then our point guard, our 5’10 point guard had nine rebounds, so that’s a total dedication to the game. Nine points: We didn’t need him to score points. We needed him to distribute and rebound.”
Dempsey’s efforts, though clearly impactful on the statsheet, were huge as well, in part because he is a freshman, Auer said.
“Our 14-year-old had a double-double and 13 rebounds,” Auer said. “He turned 14 in August.”
The Falcons will move on to play in the Championship Game of the Tournament of Champions Saturday. That game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.