East got 27 points from its star senior, Jalen Love, and another 10 from Nathan Jackson in what became Heights' first loss since December 2009. The Falcons had already captured the state record last week for the longest win streak in boys basketball at 60, then defeated Southeast over the weekend for number 62. But as they visited a jam-packed gym at East High School Tuesday, 62 was where it ended.
62 is a record likely to be remembered for many years to come. Pointing out its inevitable longevity - the prior record held by Moundridge's boys from 1991-1994 lasted for 18 years - Blue Aces coach Ron Allen acknowledged the Falcons' accomplishment amongst the post-game celebration.
"We said 'congratulations' to those guys over there. That was a hell of a 60+ win run. They did a great job, " he said to his team in a locker room huddle. "You guys know from your standpoint as we try to put wins together, it took a lot to do what they did. My hat's off to them. But tonight, this game belongs to the East High Aces!" "
The crowd of players and fans broke into a celebratory encore of cheers, as Love spoke to reporters.
"I think my teammates and I, we just came out and had our mind made up that it was our game and the seniors wanted to go out with a bang and that's what we did," said Love.
Perry Ellis scored 30 points for Heights, which came back to cut the East lead to 1 with 30 seconds to play. And as East's Larry Dennis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw, the Falcons had a chance to take possession, which could have led to a lead.
However, the 6'5" Jackson pulled down the rebound and was intentionally fouled by Gavin Thurman to head to the line for another East High chance at the stripe. Jackson hit both, the 2 biggest points of his 10, and forced Heights to attempt a three-point try at the other end to tie the game.
Ellis, one of only 4 scorers for Heights, passed along the baseline to Terrance Moore, whose shot came up just short with under 20 seconds remaining. DeShawn Terrell rebounded the miss and the East offense went on a fast break that ended with Jackson passing to Love, who converted an and-one layup which broke the home crowd into a climactic roar.
Love's three point play gave the Aces a 57-51 lead with 11 seconds to play. Moore would miss one last three point attempt on the opposite end before East began the celebration which, due to multiple warnings against their obvious intentions during the game, did not include student section fans rushing the court. Fans jeered the warnings, but ultimately respected them.
Despite last losing over 2 years and 2 months ago, the Falcons handled the loss with class, congratulating the Aces on landing the blow that no other team in Kansas could over the past 61 games.
Heights will finish its regular season schedule on Thursday night against Conner Frankamp's Wichita North Redskins. East looks ahead to its next appearance at the Class 6A Sub-state tournament in Topeka on March 1st.
Wichita East 21 12 10 14 57
Wichita Heights 8 14 15 14 51
Jalen Love, 27 pts
Nathan Jackson, 10 pts
Larry Dennis, 9 pts
DeAnte Brandon, 4 pts
Kimron Burris, 3 pts
Tyas Martin, 2 pts
Deshawn Terrell, 2 pts
Perry Ellis, 30 pts
Gavin Thurman, 12 pts
Terrance Moore, 7 pts
Ealy Bell 2 pts