Van Horn boys' basketball walks away with heads held high after 2OT loss to No. 1 Cardinal Ritter

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Van Horn senior Jaden Monday drives for a reverse layup against Cardinal Ritter defenders Ilyaas Harris (10) and Mario Fleming, center back, in the Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at JQH Arena in Springfield. Monday scored 27 points but the Falcons couldn't hold on to a fourth quarter lead and fell 79-76 in double overtime to the No. 1-ranked Lions.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Van Horn boys basketball coach Max Sollars walked out of the JQH Arena holding a ceremonial basketball, his head held high and a smile on his face.

“Our goal this year was to make good men, especially with our four seniors,” said Sollars, whose Falcons lost 79-76 in double overtime to Cardinal Ritter, the No. 1 ranked team in the state, in a Class 5 Missouri Show-Me Showdown semifinal game.

“Our goal was to make good men, develop a love of basketball and have some fun. That’s what I just told our guys in the locker room. Getting to the final four, and losing in double overtime to the No. 1 team in the state – to show our guys what it takes to make this journey – that’s what our goal was all about.”

Following the game, the large contingent of Falcon fans talked about how hard his team worked, especially senior guard Jaden Monday, who never left the court and scored a game-high 25 points.

Van Horn junior Brycen Dean (12) is consoled by assistant coach Dante Lee as the Falcons leave the court following a heartbreaking 79-76 double-overtime loss to No. 1-ranked Cardinal Ritter in a Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at JQH Arena in Springfield. The Falcons led for most of the game before the Lions tied it late and outlasted them in two overtime periods.

“We play that hard in practice,” Sollars said with a laugh. “You saw the Van Horn team play the way it has played since Day 1 this season. We get after it if we’re out on the court – we get after it hard.”

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The underdog Falcons led 16-6 after one quarter, 33-22 at the half and went into the fourth quarter with a 48-40 advantage.

The final quarter was a slugfest with the Lions using their height advantage to fight back and take their first lead, 63-61 with 27 seconds left in regulation.

Van Horn senior Sean Mitchell, right, throws up a hook shot over a Cardinal Ritter defender in a Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at JQH Arena in Springfield. The Falcons fell 79-76 in double overtime.

Jeremy Paige then hit a jump shot with 7 seconds left to knot the score at 63-all.

Cardinal Ritter’s Braxton Stacker was fouled with four seconds remaining, but missed both attempts to send the game into overtime.

Monday hit a big 3-point basket to help send the game into a second overtime, 68-all.

Jordan Nichols converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:18 left to give the Lions a 75-72 lead.

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The 19-10 Falcons simply couldn’t find a way to get a game-tying basket, although Paige got off a long-range 3-point shot in the closing seconds that fell short as the game ended. Van Horn will face Lutheran South of St. Louis in the third-place game at noon Friday at the Hammons Student Center.

“So proud to be a part of this team,” said senior forward Sean Mitchell, who did yeoman work inside against the Lions, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and taking four charges.

Van Horn junior Brycen Dean (12) goes up for scoop shot against St. Louis Cardinal Ritter defender Malachi Davis (11) in the first half of their Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at JQH Arena in Springfield. Dean scored 15 points but the Falcons fell 79-76 in double overtime.

“I guarantee you that everyone in our locker room is going to come out tomorrow and give it all we’ve got because we’re not going to let this season end with a loss,” said Mitchell, who along with Monday, Darius Ross and Cooper Sumpter make up the four seniors on the Van Horn roster.

“This season has been amazing. We have grown so much as players, but more importantly, we have grown as men. And that’s because of Coach Sollars and our entire coaching staff.

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“That’s what hurts so much about this loss. We wanted to reward them with a win today and a state championship tomorrow. So now, we have to win that third-place game tomorrow because we didn’t come all this way to lose two games.

Paige finished with 17 points and Brycen Dean added 15.

Stacker and Ilyaas Harris had 18 each for the 19-5 Lions, who are seeking their 10th state championship since 2000.