A combination of the old and the new boosted Heights to a 58-45 boys basketball victory Friday night over host Kapaun Mount Carmel.
Senior guard Braxton Kirkendoll scored eight points in the first half and seven in the second, but it was 14-year-old freshman Danair Dempsey who put the charge into the Falcons’ offense.
“That’s a good description of us this year,” Falcons coach Joe Auer said. “We’ve got some veteran guards and some young length, and it was a pretty good combination.
“Defensively, we were pretty locked in (Friday night). We were pretty sloppy offensively, which is typical of most first nights.”
Dempsey used his 6-foot-6 frame and long wingspan on putbacks to record a game-high 18 points in his varsity debut. He scored 12 of his points in the second half, including eight in a third quarter that helped Heights extend its 23-13 halftime lead to 42-22 at the end of the period.
“He turned 14 in August,” Auer said of Dempsey. “Pretty good opening night, I would say.”
After all of his seven field goals, the Heights rooting section chanted, “He’s a freshman.”
Dempsey showed as much poise afterward as he did on the court.
“I enjoyed it for the first season-opener,” he said. “I was kind of nervous at first, but as I kept playing, the pressure got off me a little bit.
“My coach taught us to raise our hands on defense all the way out, and like stretch our body so we can take away vision, so they can’t get good passes.”
The Crusaders were able to cut into the deficit a little, hitting six of their seven three-pointers after halftime, including four in a 23-point fourth quarter – including one by sophomore Jairus Kennedy just before the final buzzer.
Auer was pleased with the offensive output.
“Very pleased with getting the ‘W,’ ” he said. “We haven’t beaten these guys in three tries, so it was important for us to come here and get a win, because Kapaun always plays us extremely tough.”
Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter, which ended with Heights clinging to an 11-10 lead. But a 12-3 second quarter gave Heights a little breathing room, and the Falcons came out on fire in the pivotal third quarter.
“We were sloppy early, but we were able to get a lot of runouts,” Auer said. “It’s fun to play (having) the lead, and I was very pleased with our effort.”
Early on, the most consistent part of Heights’ offense was Kirkendoll, who had a team-high eight points in the first half.
“Kirkendoll coming off the bench gave us a tremendous spark,” Auer said. “We really took off when he came in the game, and he created a lot of (Kapaun) turnovers.”
Kirkendoll said it was merely a matter of execution.
“We came out there with a chip on our shoulder and stuck to our game plan,” he said. “Play defense, and play as a team together.”
The City League road is always tough, and Heights will make its home debut Tuesday against Carroll.
Meanwhile, Kapaun will venture out on the road to West.
Crusaders coach John Cherne III said he had only a few players who had any kind of varsity experience last year.
“Overall, we’re inexperienced,” he said. “I have a very, very young team, and they need to play more in order to have some success.”
Heights 11 12 19 16 – 58
Kapaun 10 3 9 23 – 45
HEIGHTS – Profit 2, Davis 9, Okon 4, Edwards 4, Dempsey 18, Kirkendoll 15, Pillich 4, Brainard 2.
KAPAUN – Barrier 5, Eberhart 3, Valentas 1, Woodward 13, Jav. Kennedy 5, Jai. Kennedy 6, Schmitz 2, Hutton 10.
Heights girls 66, Kapaun 52
Heights 14 17 24 11 – 66
Kapaun 6 20 8 18 – 52
HEIGHTS – Jameson 22, Gray 14, Ammons 3, Callahan 12, Conley 4, Slater 5, Teague 6.
KAPAUN – Monty 14, A. Roulston 21, Dalian 2, E. Roulston 4, Ayala 5, Short 6.