'Family over everything': Falcons capture third place with rout of Lutheran South

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Before Friday’s Show-Me Showdown Class 5 third-place game, Van Horn High School coach Max Sollars wrote three words on a board that is usually filled with lineups and game strategy:

“FAMILY OVER EVERYTHING”

His Van Horn family went out and took care of business Friday at the Hammons Student Center as they defeated Lutheran South of St. Louis 73-59 in a fitting tribute to the seniors who began their Falcon journey with Sollars four years ago.

“Coach didn’t need to preach, or tell us how big this game was,” said senior forward Sean Mitchell, who grabbed eight rebounds and played solid defense against a much larger Lancers team.

“He usually has all this stuff written on the board, and today all it said was ‘Family Over Everything.’ After seeing that, we were so fired up. No one was going to beat us today.”

Sollars soon came out of the locker room, a medal hanging around his neck and the third-place state trophy in his hands.

“We could have beaten Mizzou today!” Sollars said. “Seriously, we knew before we stepped on the court we were going to win because we are so disappointed about what happened last night.”

The Falcons, who finished 20-10, took Cardinal Ritter, the No. 1 Class 5 team in the state to double overtime, before losing 79-76 in the semifinal.

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

“That loss lit a fire and it was still burning bright today,” Sollars added. “I didn’t need to tell these dudes anything except how to find their way out to the court (through the maze of halls and locker rooms).

Van Horn senior Jaden Monday (11) streaks past Lutheran South's Jonathan Prange (3) in the Class 5 state third-place game Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield. Monday scored 29 points to lead the Falcons to a 73-59 win in his final high school game.

“Our guys were relentless, played great D and made the shots they needed to make. This journey started four years ago and I am so proud of them – for what they did today and for the young men they have become.

“That was always my No. 1 goal, but winning today means a lot to me, our guys, our school and everyone who came to Springfield to watch us play.”

Jaden Monday ended his career at Van Horn with a game-high 32 points - although the official scorebook credited Mitchell with one of his 3-point baskets.

“I made a 3-pointer?” asked Mitchell, when he was shown the scorebook. “I made a 3-pointer! I’ll take it!”

Van Horn junior Brycen Dean (12) drives to the hoop for a scoop shot against Lutheran South's Ben Rauh (22) in the Class 5 state third-place game Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield. Dean scored 11 points to help lead the Falcons to a 73-59 win.

Monday just grinned when asked about the scoring error.

“All I care about is winning,” he said. “We came down here to bring home a state championship, and when that didn’t happen, we knew we were going to win this game today.”

Monday scored eight points in the first quarter as the Falcons took a 19-12 lead they never relinquished.

“We never trailed in the game did we?” asked Sollars, as his players exited the locker room, one smile larger than the next. “We got that lead last night and let them get back in the game and send it into overtime. 

“That was not going to happen today.”

While 6-foot-6 center Jack Lawson scored 31 points for the Lancers (16-12), he had little offensive support from his teammates as the Falcons played lock-down defense on the perimeter.

Van Horn junior Jeremy Paige Jr. (4) flies past Lutheran South defenders Jonathan Prange, center, and Jack Lawson during the Class 5 state third-place game against Lutheran South Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield. Paige scored 12 points to help lead the Falcons to a 73-59 win.

“We had to play hard the entire game,” said Monday, “but I never felt like they were going to challenge us.”

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Sollars sent in four bench players – but left Monday on the court.

“He deserved that,” Sollars said.

As the game ended, Monday had the game ball, cradling it like a baby.

“Those are the moments you will always remember,” Monday said. “I really want to thank Coach for doing that.”

Junior point guard Jeremy Paige finished with 12 points and four assists, junior guard Brycen Dean added 11 points and three steals, senior Darius Ross had eight points and three steals and junior center Alex Morales contributed six points and 11 rebounds.

Van Horn senior Sean Mitchell (2) bites his medal as teammate Jeremy Paige, right, waits to receive his medal following the Falcons' 73-59 win over Lutheran South in the Class 5 state third-place game Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield.