DODGE CITY, Kan. - In 25th-year coach Joe Auer’s eyes, Wichita Heights played one of its best third quarters of the season versus City League rival Wichita East. The Falcons outscored East by eight in the third and led by seven entering the fourth.
However, East changed to a press and quickly shifted the contest. The Blue Aces opened the fourth quarter on a 14-0 run and eventually earned a 52-40 victory in Saturday’s fifth-place game at the Dodge City Tournament of Champions in United Wireless Arena.
“Basically try to get an early trap in the backcourt, and anytime we have got two on the ball, there is somebody open,” East coach Joe Jackson said. “So we have got to do a good job of rotations off the basketball, and our guys did a good job kind of reading eyes and jumping the passing lanes and getting some deflections and steals to go our way.”
Overall, East outscored Heights, 23-4 in the fourth quarter behind two different pressures: a 1-2-1-1 and a matchup zone.
Heights, with no returning starters this winter, often had trouble getting the ball past half court in the fourth. TOC teams play three games in three days, and Auer noticed tiredness from his squad down the stretch.
“They really only had one more chance to try and get control of that game,” Auer said. “I mean we are getting ready to put that game away, and what they did, it was good timing. That’s what I would have done to us at that point.”
The Falcons had 11 turnovers total in the first three quarters, nine in the fourth. Additionally, Heights held a plus-11 advantage on the glass after three; East was plus-6 in the fourth.
“Three games in three days, and East High, at that moment, they are desperate,” Auer said. “I mean, they are absolutely desperate, because we are dominating the game. But it was a good move on their part.”
East, which lost 61-57 in overtime to Heights on Jan. 7, finished 2-1 at the TOC. The Blue Aces opened the tournament with a 73-69 defeat to Class 6A No. 1 Haysville Campus, and then easily beat struggling Dodge City, 76-39.
“If you get beat once, the goal has to be to go 2-1, and we talked about that the first night after the Campus loss, and we accomplished that,” Jackson said.
The Blue Aces, at less than full strength for much of the winter, received 12 points and 10 rebounds from 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior Daylan Jones, a Division I football prospect and returning first team all-conference basketball player.
Jones labeled himself “probably 85 percent” as he comes back from a sprained left foot injury. Sophomore Fontaine Williams finished with a game-high 15 points. The duo combined for 15 points in the fourth. Jones played less than a quarter in each of the first two contests this year, and then was out for several weeks.
“It’s getting better every single day,” Jones said. “I just ice it every time, and I take care of it, because I don’t want to sit out the whole season.”
As well, sophomore Quincy Gholar wasn’t able to play until January because of non-injury related reasons. Gholar had 19 points in the tournament, including three Saturday. East is 7-6, Heights 5-8.
“We have got all of our pieces together,” Jones said.
The longtime power Falcons have its most losses since a 12-10 showing in ’12-13. The Falcons had 14 points from senior Lamon Payne, and 10 by senior Alex Norris.
East trailed 36-29 entering the fourth. Auer believed Heights had a “really weak possession” to end the third quarter, and the Falcons opened the fourth with an unforced turnover.
“They bullied us in the fourth quarter,” Auer said. “We were in complete command of that game, but we are really young, and they are a lot bigger and stronger than we are, and we didn’t handle the pressure.”
East, which finished 21 of 31 from the free throw line, sunk three straight free throws to cut the deficit to 36-32 and force a Falcon timeout with 5:17 left in the game. At the 4:50 mark, Jones sunk a key 3.
“He is a lot more healthy now, and almost back to being 100 percent, and he was definitely a difference maker for us down the stretch tonight,” Jackson said.
Sophomore Adriel Smith followed with a midcourt steal that eventually yielded two Jones free throws and a 37-36 advantage at the 4:31 mark. Later, junior Chandler Pearson tallied a steal that led to a Jones fast break scoop shot layup. Jones was fouled and made the free throw.
“He has definitely stepped up and emerged as a really good leader for us,” Jackson said of Jones. “He is becoming much more vocal. His body control is pretty incredible. Offensively, he gets into some positions on the floor, and typically is on balance, and just makes some really good decisions for us.”