NORTH MANCHESTER — After a sluggish first half in which the Cass Kings spotted Southwood a 10-point halftime advantage, Keegen Key opened the second half with a thunderous alley-oop dunk, and it was game on from there.
The Kings put together a solid second half of play to thwart the Knights’ upset bid in a 56-55 win in the first round of the Class 2A Manchester Sectional.
After shooting just 7 of 27 in the first half and committing 11 turnovers, the Kings (10-11) turned around and shot 14 of 26 and had just six turnovers in the second half of play.
“We challenged a couple of the players at halftime to see if they wanted their season to end the way the first half was,” Cass coach Jon Kitchel said. “They emphatically said, no, they didn’t want to, and one of them was Keegen. Being a senior, I said, is this the way you wanted it to end? And the way he played in the second half, he didn’t want it to end yet.”
Key, who had a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds in the win, said it was the Kings’ defensive mindset in the second half that turned the game around. Cass held Southwood (4-17) to 10 of 33 shooting and forced nine turnovers in the second half, and the Knights shot just six free throws in the second half after getting to the line 16 times in the first.
“We played really sluggish and slow defense in the first half,” Key said. “The second half we switched defenses, came out and stepped up. We caused some good turnovers which won us the game.”
An alley-oop pass from Austin Foreman to Key for a one-handed slam in transition brought Cass to within 38-35 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter and really got the King fans into it. Key’s three-point play near the end of the quarter tied the game at 38-all, completely erasing Cass’ 28-18 halftime deficit.