The first game was a controversial finish at the buzzer, but Kestrel Heights left no doubt in the rematch, walking into Voyager and knocking off the Vikings 65-60 to clinch the North Central Athletic Conference boys basketball regular season title.
Down by four heading into the fourth quarter, Kestrel Heights outscored Voyager 23-14 over the final eight minutes. They were led by sophomore Jayvis Hayes, who knocked down two threes to start the quarter and finished with nine points in the quarter for a game high of 25.
Kestrel Heights had been struggling from three all night, shooting just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc through three quarters.
“(Jayvis) always has confidence,” said Kestrel Heights coach Lenell Wallace. “I have no clue why he doesn’t shoot more. Those shots lifted the team.”
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Meanwhile, Voyager went cold from downtown. After shooting 11-for-21 and getting open looks from three all game, they missed their last six, and became a bit too passive down the stretch.
“We didn’t attack their zone defense in the fourth,” said Voyager coach Mike Huff. “We got satisfied with going around the zone instead of through it.”
Turnovers also plagued Voyager, who had 16 in the game and five in the final quarter.
“Kestrel makes winning plays,” Huff said. “We haven’t been able to make the plays that get us over the top in these big games.”
Voyager led 33-27 at the half and it looked like Vikings' junior Jordan Love would be in for a big night. He had 18 points at the half, but Kestrel Heights switched their defense on him in the second half and held him to just five points.
The victory gave Kestrel Heights an outright regular season conference championship, and kept their undefeated season alive.
“This is the culmination of a lot of work,” said Wallace. “We did not want to share the title with Voyager again.”
While Voyager won’t have a chance at a regular season title, they’re hoping to avenge their only two conference defeats this year in the conference tournament.
“I hope this is fuel for them,” said Huff. “We’d like to learn from the mistakes that we made and continue to get better. We do want another shot at them in the conference tournaments.”
In the girls game, Kestrel Heights mounted a second half comeback to defeat Voyager 32-29.
Things looked bleak for Kestrel Heights in the first half as they found themselves trailing 18-9, and without the services of leading scorer Zyonna Spaulding, who sprained her ankle in first quarter and did not return. But senior Monique Anthony answered the call, scoring seven points in the third quarter and icing the game with three late free throws, and two big offensive rebounds. Monique finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m extremely proud of Monique’s progress throughout the year,” said Kestrel Heights head coach Bobby Allen. “She’s the ultimate teammate and competitor.”