Falcons present challenge for unbeaten Stags
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”