$1 for 3 months
$1 for 3 months

Falcons present challenge for unbeaten Stags

By Bill Althaus
Van Horn's Brycen Dean (12) drives into Bishop Miege traffic for a shot in Thursday's game at Van Horn. Dean scored 28 points but the Falcons lost 70-59.

Van Horn basketball coach Max Sollars does not believe in moral victories.

However, he can appreciate a performance like the one he got from his Falcons Thursday night on their home court as they gave it everything they had in a 70-59 loss to the No. 1-ranked team from Kansas, the undefeated Bishop Miege Stags.

“I’m not into moral victories, but I am into watching my guys give it everything they’ve got, and that’s what they did tonight against the best team I have ever coached against,” said Sollars, whose 8-5 Falcons outscored the 8-0 Stags 40-33 in the second half.

“People might ask why we’d play a team that talented. Well, we play a team like that because it’s going to make us that much better when postseason rolls around. If we can compete against a team with that kind of talent, we can compete against anyone.”

The Falcons trailed 17-12 after one quarter, but the Stags used a 20-7 second-quarter advantage to take a 37-19 lead into halftime.

“Coach Sollars is the best,” Falcons forward Sean Mitchell said. “He was inspirational at halftime, and really made us believe in ourselves. He’s the toughest coach I know, and he wanted us to be the toughest players we could be – and that’s what we did the second half.”

Brycen Dean, coming off a tournament MVP honor as the Falcons won the Lathrop Invitational, connected on back-to-back 3-pointers at 5:49 of the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 56-41.

Van Horn guard Jaden Monday (11) in traffic in Thursday's game against Bishop Miege at Van Horn. Monday scored 18 points but the Falcons fell 70-59.

He finished with seven 3-point baskets and a game-high 28 points, to complement Jaden Monday’s 18-point performance.

“They’re a very good team, and we respect them,” Dean said, “but we don’t fear them. They’re big and they’re talented, but I think we stood our ground in the second half, and that was inspirational to all of us.”

Van Horn's Korey Messick (42) and Sean Mitchell (2) battle Bishop Miege's Taj Manning (0) in Thursday's game at Van Horn. Undefeated Bishop Miege went on to claim a 70-59 win.

Monday nodded in agreement.

“We showed a toughness that felt good,” Monday said, “and that came from our coach. We’d do anything for him – every guy on this team would do anything for him – and he got us fired up. We knew tonight was going to be our toughest challenge, and even though we didn’t win, I felt like we responded, especially in the second half.

Miege’s Mark Mitchell, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, led the Stags with 22 points. He has narrowed his collegiate choice to Kansas or Duke.

The Stags also have Taj Manning, a 6-7 junior forward, who added 17 points, and 7-3 senior center Tayt Harbour, who dominates defensively in the lane.

Van Horn's Korey Messick (42) takes an arm to the head while trying to get position on Bishop Miege's 7-foot-3 center Tayt Harbour in Thursday's game at Van Horn. The host Falcons lost 70-59.

“They are some big boys,” Monday said, shaking his head. “We’ve never played a team with that kind of size – or talent. But we took it inside and Brycen was awesome from the outside. I can walk out of this gym tonight with my head held high.”